Will scientists now be more inclined to admit that climate change is causing extreme weather?

Image for article titled Will scientists now be more inclined to admit that climate change is causing extreme weather?

Now that the damage inflicted by Sandy is becoming apparent, the blame game has begun - and the finger is being pointed directly at climate change. And in fact, as Mark Fischetti writes in SciAm today, the disaster is finally emboldening scientists to standup and call it like it is.


Scientists have been cautious when linking storms and other extreme weather events to climate change (like the warm 2012 winter in the eastern U.S. and the frigid one in Europe that was happening at the same time). But they're becoming increasingly confident in linking climate change to weather events on account of their steadily improving ability to isolate factors that are contributing to such things as superstorms. Fischetti writes:

On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: "Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes."

Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: "When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that's a fair statement that most people could sign onto."

A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: "The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923."

Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: "There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That's true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can't link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate."

And as Fischetti concludes, "Insurers, scientists and journalist are beginning to drop the caveats and simply say that climate change is causing big storms. As scientists collect more and more data over time, more of them will be willing to make the same data-based statements."