Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Science

Scientists Can Now Blame Individual Natural Disasters On Climate Change (scientificamerican.com) 318

In 2003, the predominant view in the scientific community was that there was no way to determine the exact influence of climate change on any individual event. "There are just too many other factors affecting the weather, including all sorts of natural climate variations," reports Scientific American. But Myles Allen, a climate expert at the University of Oxford, believes scientists can blame individual natural disasters on climate change. Scientific American reports of how extreme event attribution is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of climate science: Over the last few years, dozens of studies have investigated the influence of climate change on events ranging from the Russian heat wave of 2010 to the California drought, evaluating the extent to which global warming has made them more severe or more likely to occur. The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society now issues a special report each year assessing the impact of climate change on the previous year's extreme events. Interest in the field has grown so much that the National Academy of Sciences released an in-depth report last year evaluating the current state of the science and providing recommendations for its improvement. And as the science continues to mature, it may have ramifications for society. Legal experts suggest that attribution studies could play a major role in lawsuits brought by citizens against companies, industries or even governments. They could help reshape climate adaptation policies throughout a country or even the world. And perhaps more immediately, the young field of research could be capturing the public's attention in ways that long-term projections for the future cannot.

In 2004, Allen and Oxford colleague Daithi Stone and Peter Stott of the Met Office co-authored a report that is widely regarded as the world's first extreme event attribution study. The paper, which examined the contribution of climate change to a severe European heat wave in 2003 -- an event which may have caused tens of thousands of deaths across the continent -- concluded that "it is very likely that human influence has at least doubled the risk of a heat wave exceeding this threshold magnitude." Before this point, climate change attribution science had existed in other forms for several decades, according to Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University climate scientist and attribution expert. Until 2004, much of the work had focused on investigating the relationship between human activity and long-term changes in climate elements like temperature and precipitation. More recently, scientists had been attempting to understand how these changes in long-term averages might affect weather patterns in general.

Scientists Can Now Blame Individual Natural Disasters On Climate Change

Comments Filter:
  • The Elf theory of Global Warming is totally discredited.

  • Dummies (Score:2, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

    But Myles Allen, a climate expert at the University of Oxford, believes scientists can blame individual natural disasters on climate change.

    When is the world gonna smarten up and start listening to Slashdot posters and not Oxford scientists when it comes to climate change?

    Clearly, it's all gotta be a hoax because it's cold as fuck here right now. And, the smartest man in America told us it was a hoax, so there's that, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Clearly, it's all gotta be a hoax because it's cold as fuck here right now

      Or as I like to say, 'The boat can't be sinking, the stern is 30 feet above the surface!'

    • Re:Dummies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @03:23AM (#55854095)

      Yet we shouldn't blindly trust authority, either. That's particularly true in academia where more substantial results certainly are beneficial in obtaining future funding.

      This doesn't mean the research is a hoax, not at all. It means that all scientific claims should be examined with skepticism. This works both ways, too. Dr. William Gray was a longtime researcher at Colorado State University, and was responsible for pioneering seasonal forecasts of Atlantic hurricane activity. Because of the seasonal hurricane forecasts, he became a very well respected scientist. He was also extremely skeptical of human activity causing climate change, and was very outspoken in this manner.

      Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy. It's also not necessary to do that. We should be skeptical of claims by authority and investigate the evidence. The evidence stands on its own that human activity is very likely responsible for most of the climate change we're seeing right now.

      • Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy. It's also not necessary to do that. We should be skeptical of claims by authority and investigate the evidence

        It's hard to investigate the evidence when you're not an expert in the field.

      • Re:Dummies (Score:5, Insightful)

        by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @07:35AM (#55854677)

        Yet we shouldn't blindly trust authority, either.

        You shouldn't blindly distrust authority, either. In today's America, seems like everyone has decided to pick one or the other of those, and fact is both are ridiculously stupid things to do.

        • Also: If someone has authority over you, then a certain about of distrust is OK. If someone is an authority in their academic field, then that's an entirely different definition of the term "authority" and it actually implies that their opinion is valuable and is respected by people who know what they're talking about.

          It's annoying seeing two completely different definitions mixed up. Though not new, we used to see the same thing with the word "sharing" rather a lot.

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        "Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy." You don't understand logic. It isn't a logical fallacy at all. At most, it is a recognition that since one doesn't have a degree in some science that deals with climate, that punting to experts who do is a rational choice. The irrational choice is claiming one isn't a scientist so one can ignore scientists. The "rationality" here has the force of "probability".

        And yes, I am a practicing logician.

        • At most, it is a recognition that since one doesn't have a degree in some science that deals with climate, that punting to experts who do is a rational choice.

          And all the massed & collective & thoroughly reiterated human experience of boy scouts & girl scouts, experts & executives, naked gentry & landed gentry claiming slightly more than they can reasonably chew to make a name for themselves and get ahead in life ... dead fucking worthless.

          Apparently.

          Expertise is just ambition with a hig

      • Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy.
        Asking an expert about a certain thing, he is an expert about, is not "appealing to authority".
        Appealing to authority means: the pope knows much about god (he is an authority about god), so he must know if my car is really broken or if the mechanic tries to rip me of (appealing to an authority that has no clue about cars and the work of an mechanics).

    • Straw man much? The guy tries to use weather events as proof for climate change. Whatever camp you're in that does seem rather eager to score points. A more conservative statistical approach should be enough.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Crashmarik ( 635988 )

      But Myles Allen, a climate expert at the University of Oxford, believes scientists can blame individual natural disasters on climate change.

      When is the world gonna smarten up and start listening to Slashdot posters and not Oxford scientists when it comes to climate change?

      Clearly, it's all gotta be a hoax because it's cold as fuck here right now. And, the smartest man in America told us it was a hoax, so there's that, too.

      Yeah it's not like he gets paid to say these things or has any conflict of interest on the issue.

      It's nice that they can "NOW" blame disasters on climate change but it isn't like they haven't been doing that for years and even blaming disasters that never happen on climate change.

      Al Gore batting a 1000 here
      https://wattsupwiththat.com/20... [wattsupwiththat.com]

      Oh he isn't a scientist ? Well what about Dr. Hansen
      https://wattsupwiththat.com/20... [wattsupwiththat.com]

      I don't recall NYC sinking under the waves of a tropical climate New Years.

      • I don't recall NYC sinking under the waves of a tropical climate New Years.

        The headline is not "Scientists Can Now Predict Natural Disasters Due To Climate Change". Nice try at FUD, though.

      • Re:Dummies (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @09:33AM (#55855161)

        I recall they used to get round it by saying, "this hurricane can't be attributed to climate change but it is an example of the kinds of events which climate change is leading to more and more, and a reminder of why it is so urgent that we act..." -- which, if I am using the expression right, is begging the question.

        Unfortunately the whole issue has been framed in the public mind as, "people who accept the science" vs. "nutcase idiot right wingers who ignore all common sense so they can selfishly keep their SUVs". Top marks to the PR firm which devised that strategy 30 years ago.

        As naturally, most people want to be seen as belonging to the former group.

        It is amazing because very few actually read any of the actual studies to try to figure out for themselves what they can really claim, rather, people feel they need to show they are not "bad". It has become a moralized identity issue.

        Yet in other subjects, it makes sense to wonder, for example, is the doctor right to prescribe so many statins and are there really some nasty side effects being felt by users? But on climate change, if you stop to wonder, you are into the moral quagmire. I recall my mother questioning the doc's liberal use of antibiotics, some decades ago, and she was proven right years later, by her simple observation: if he takes this for a mild cold, what does he take for something serious? Now everyone is on about the over-prescripotion of antibiotics, yeah, even the experts are now saying this.

        Climate change is not a moral issue. It is a science study.

        If people want to talk about morals and ethics of say, consumerism, then they can join the 5000 year old philosophical debates on asceticism and human nature, which are rich sources of human wisdom on life.

        The irony is that by making it a moral issue, we actually dumb down the real moral and ethical issues involved.

    • There was "a link" between saturated fat and heart disease for decades. It was a lie and made society quite overweight. Forgive us if we say "wait, let's not rush to judgment on the basis of supposed scientific consensus, especially when dissent exists and has sound reasons to do so."
      • Re:Dummies (Score:4, Interesting)

        by magzteel ( 5013587 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:40AM (#55854863)

        There was "a link" between saturated fat and heart disease for decades. It was a lie and made society quite overweight. Forgive us if we say "wait, let's not rush to judgment on the basis of supposed scientific consensus, especially when dissent exists and has sound reasons to do so."

        I remember when there was general agreement that Dr Robert Atkins was a quack. Nowadays they would brand him a "fat denialist, in the pocket of the meat industry".

        http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07... [nytimes.com]

        "If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true."

        • I guess one part of the problem is that americans usually completely ignore science from other parts of the world.
          "Eat more carbs", sorry never heard about that advice. And I'm not aware of publications with that message in Europe, nor did I get taught that in school.
          Bottom line people should have some common sense. Carbs can be converted into fat. Eat to much, you become fat. It is as simple as that. Eat it in bad combinations with fat, you even get fatter.
          There actually never was a big dispute about how n

          • "Eat more carbs", sorry never heard about that advice.

            1980 US dietary guidelines:

            to avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol:

            - choose lean meat, fish, poultry, dry beans and peas as your protein sources
            - moderate your use of eggs and organ meats
            - limit your intake of butter, cream, hydrogenated margarines, shortenings and coconut oil.
            - trim excess fat off meats
            - broil, bake or boil rather than fry
            - read labels carefully to determine both amount and types of fat [...]

            Also: "if you limit your fat intake, you should increase your calories from carbohydra

          • I guess one part of the problem is that americans usually completely ignore science from other parts of the world.
            "Eat more carbs", sorry never heard about that advice. And I'm not aware of publications with that message in Europe

            https://www.theguardian.com/so... [theguardian.com]

    • I'm curious to know to what extent climate change is responsible for the 2005-2014 pause in major hurricanes hitting the US. Is this the branch of science that could answer that?
  • If everything is attributable to "climate change", then their theory is no longer falsifiable. Which means it is no longer science; instead, it's just buzzwords that trigger government bureaucrats into opening the subsidy faucet.

    Of course, it's always been this way - they're just getting honest about it. After all the money thrown at climate modelling, we still have never seen a clean scientific test consisting of specific predictions that could be verified or falsified. Instead, we get hundreds of climate

    • causes more clouds, reflects more sunlight.

      Clouds are complicated things. They reflect sunlight, but they also reflect earthlight, keeping the earth warm. How much of each depends on the time and location. On a global scale, most of the effects cancel each other out.

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        Yep, in fact after 9/11 when most air travel in the U.S. was grounded, the air temperature high up decreased by about 5 degrees, if memory serves correct. The entrails from planes are clouds, removing them allowed more heat to escape. Also, water vapor is a green house gas.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's a significant problem with the negative feedback you're arguing for. Warming induced by additional carbon dioxide should increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, though with a much lower residence time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Adding water vapor doesn't necessarily mean there are more clouds. If the temperature of the atmosphere increases, more water vapor is needed to reach saturation. Relative humi

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      While we're looking into feedback effects, warming causes the polar ice caps to melt revealing more water and land which reflects less sunlight which causes more warming. Also, permafrost becoming unperma creates another feedback effect.

  • Clickbait headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @03:04AM (#55854029)

    This is a clickbait headline. Shame on Scientific American for posting that headline, and shame on Slashdot for following along.

    Let's quote from farther down in the article:

    Today, scientists still generally agree that it's impossible to attribute any individual weather phenomenon solely to climate change. Storms, fires, droughts and other events are influenced by a variety of complex factors. And they're all acting at once, including both natural components of the climate system and sometimes unrelated human activities. For instance, a wildfire may be made more likely by hot, dry weather conditions, and by human land-use practices.

    This contradicts the headline. Scientists aren't blaming individual disasters on climate change.

    Climate is the statistical distribution of weather, including the normals and extremes. In many cases, it follows the normal distribution. However, other distributions may be appropriate especially for certain variables like precipitation. The scientists are saying that climate change is causing the distributions to change, and they are quantifying how the distributions change. They can then say that a particular event is more or less likely to occur as a result of climate change, and that's what they're actually doing.

    The article references three events that they say are "impossible" without climate change, one of which is http://www.ametsoc.net/eee/2016/ch3.pdf [ametsoc.net]. This is a modeling study, basically integrating climate models forward with various forcings to test whether they could reproduce a given event. Because the model failed to reproduce the result over a period of 5,200 events absent anthropogenic forcing, they concluded that the event was impossible without anthropogenic forcing. While climate change may have made the event much more likely, the claims are probably misleading.

    If you trust the model, you might be able to argue that the probability is less than 1/5200 of the event occurring in a given year (or something similar) given that the model failed to reproduce the result. It's probably much less than 1/5200, based on this statement:

    However, simulated internal variability would need to be more than twice as large as the most extreme case found in the CMIP5 models, for even the most extreme simulated natural warming event to match the 2016 observed record.

    That doesn't mean that the probability is zero. The other issue is the model, and whether it's accurately reproducing the statistical distribution of weather. It's easy to determine if the model is reproducing the mean, because we should know that part of the distribution with a high degree of accuracy. Extreme events, by definition, are rare, and therefore we can't quantify that part of the distribution with as much certainty, and can't know as well whether the model is reproducing those parts of the distribution very well. The actual climate model software is fundamentally no different than weather models, which certainly have biases and other known issues.

    I believe the results are still pretty damning, that the events would be extremely unlikely to occur in the absence of anthropogenic forcing. It's still exaggerating to say that the extreme event would be impossible without anthropogenic forcing, and there's no need to make that claim. If the event didn't occur over 5,200 years of a model simulation, and the model didn't even come close to reproducing the event, there are two possibilities that aren't mutually exclusive:
    1) The model has issues reproducing extreme events like the one being studied
    2) The event would have a much less than 1/5200 probability of occurring in a given year

    I suspect the second possibility is probably accurate. It's a damning statement to make without saying the event would have been impossible without anthropogenic forcing. It also forces the deniers to debate the validity of the model (actual science) rather than attacking the credibility of the scientists for not being precise in their statements.

  • In this country there is something called sovereign immunity - you can't sue the government except in very limited cases.
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      In this country there is something called sovereign immunity - you can't sue the government except in very limited cases.

      It's also stupid because you're basically suing yourself because think...how is the government funded?

  • Legal experts suggest that attribution studies could play a major role in lawsuits brought by citizens against companies, industries or even governments.

    I predict that soon, due to this, Puerto Rico and Philippines will be richer than India, China and the USA combined. Therefore, I suggest we send all our tort lawyers to these islands and tell them to wait for a typhoon. I anticipate it being 'a good start'.

  • But I doubt he’s getting any points towards tenure from getting an article into Scientific American.

  • This line of argument is dangerous to even attempt regardless of actual merit.

    We can't have a situation where every time some political hack carries snowballs into congress to make a point it is rightfully dismissed as crackpot antics. Yet when there is a specific incident on the other side of the ledger be a storm or heat wave it becomes acceptable to try and publically link instances of weather to "climate change".

    Perusing this will severely undermine any and all attempts to communicate the difference be

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Much of the current problems with climate reality in my view can be traced back to scientists going that extra mile to sound alarms and suggest or imply political remedies.

      That's bullshit. Even if the activism causes reasons for doubt, that doubt should be resolved by studying the science, not outright dismissed.

    • by KeensMustard ( 655606 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @07:08AM (#55854589)

      We can't have a situation where every time some political hack carries snowballs into congress to make a point it is rightfully dismissed as crackpot antics. Yet when there is a specific incident on the other side of the ledger be a storm or heat wave it becomes acceptable to try and publically link instances of weather to "climate change".

      That means we have to bar scientists from speaking on a subject if their fact based statements contradict or offend someones political views. So the President of the US is allowed to celebrate his ignorance and reach an audience of millions with his factually incorrect take on climate, but someone with a scientific discovery and the evidence to prove it can't speak to it, because political opinion is sacrosanct.

      That is very troubling.

      Here's an alternative approach: the arguments made by politicians on science should be judged on their scientific merit. The arguments made by scientists on science should be judged on their scientific merit. If a scientist makes a political statement, judge it on it's political merit - unless they claim it is science, in which case, judge it on it's scientific merit. It's possible, even essential, to tell good science from bad. A political argument framed as a scientific view does not pass a simple sniff test, and is readily exposed.

      People who adopt a position on science based on treating political opinions as inviolate are self selecting themselves out of the gene pool. Seriously.

    • by asylumx ( 881307 )
      This looks like scientists saying "Ya, we have evidence that makes us pretty sure this event is related to the bigger picture here" and you are the one bringing politics into their science. I don't see any of them saying "Vote for X" or any stupid thing like that.
    • Everything that involves more than one person is potentially political. What you are asking for is for scientists to kill themselves, because there's no other way to escape politics.

    • We can't have a situation where every time some political hack carries snowballs into congress to make a point it is rightfully dismissed as crackpot antics. Yet when there is a specific incident on the other side of the ledger be a storm or heat wave it becomes acceptable to try and publically link instances of weather to "climate change".

      Exactly so. I made this point on (one of?) yesterday's /. climate stories.

      If you are going to be over the top in selling your agenda, don't be surprised when we don't buy.

    • by be951 ( 772934 )

      We can't have a situation where every time some political hack carries snowballs into congress to make a point it is rightfully dismissed as crackpot antics. Yet when there is a specific incident on the other side of the ledger be a storm or heat wave it becomes acceptable to try and publically link instances of weather to "climate change".

      Let's abstract that away from a politically charged topic and see if it holds up, shall we?

      We can't have a situation where a single data point is used to try to refute a trend across a large data set.

      That part seems fine.

      When a specific data point can be shown to be influenced by trends in the larger data set, it is acceptable to state that.

      That seems fine, too. Are you suggesting that when individual events are shown with a high degree of confidence to be influenced by the larger trend, it should be ignored or suppressed? That sounds more like a situation where politically motivated individuals should leave the science alone.

    • If only scientists and supporting institutions had done a better job to just stay in their own lane... simply boringly run models and offer informed predictions rather than inject activism there would be less propensity for confusion between roles of science and politics.
      Then everything that happened the recent 30 years to work against climate change, would not even happen 30 years in the future.
      If you have a smoking friend and you are a medical you are not allowed to point out to him that smoking is danger

    • Much of the current problems with climate reality in my view can be traced back to scientists going that extra mile to sound alarms and suggest or imply political remedies.

      Bullshit. Most of the current problems with the acceptance of climate reality can actually be traced back to ideological opposition, initially funded by corporations who feared regulation that would reduce their profit margins. It was deliberately politicized and not by the scientists.

  • didn't read the article. Not that it sensationalist title matched the content as usual. Now everybody get to yelling at each other and calling each other dummies. Thats the solution to global warming if you handle it the way people usually do.
  • In the 1970's the temp was 110 degrees F at my home near San Diego California for ten days. The usual afternoon ocean winds did not occur. . Lawns and plants died. I watered everything and nothing survived. I had a window A/C in my bedroom that kept the room around eighty degrees. Sometimes it just gets hot.
  • Climate Models (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cephacles ( 1447237 )

    From TFA about halfway in:

    "Today, scientists still generally agree that it's impossible to attribute any individual weather phenomenon solely to climate change. ...

    But what scientists can do is investigate the extent to which climate change has influenced a given event. Generally, researchers do this with the help of climate models, ..."

    Whenever I read the words 'climate model', I generally replace them in my head with the words 'wildly inaccurate climate model'. Scott Adams has some interesting things to [dilbert.com]

    • Scott Adams has some interesting things to say [dilbert.com] about the subject.

      No, what he's saying is absolutely stupid. Climate models are based on physics models, not just a bunch of made-up offsets.

      Here's a well known model forecast, with real temperatures plotted inside it: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DK... [twimg.com]

      Here you can find all the details about these models:
      https://cmip.llnl.gov/index.ht... [llnl.gov]

      • The data plotted is bad, it's all been adjusted quite heavily. Thankfully, we have a satellite record covering most of that same time period, and it has NOT been constantly massaged, homogenized, extrapolated, and fitted. And it shows terrible correlation [drroyspencer.com] with the models.
        • Thankfully, we have a satellite record covering most of that same time period, and it has NOT been constantly massaged, homogenized, extrapolated, and fitted.

          Satellite temperature are much more massaged. Satellites don't measure surface air temperature, so the data has to be reconstructed.

  • It looks pretty clear that some warming has occurred in the past 100 years. It is also pretty clear that there is no consensus on how much warming has occurred and to what that might be attributed. A notionally good starting point for making an assessment of all this data is to base it on the principles of information theory. As a starting point, calculate the entropy of raw measurements in the data sets and then the entropy of adjusted measurements to determine if the information content is the same. Other
  • A university researcher has just proven in a groundbreaking research study that water is INDEED wet! With this announcement he has been granted five more years of funding from several prominent corporations wishing to be associated with such innovative discoveries. [youtu.be]
  • The general consensus in science is individual events can't be attributed.

    one paper saying it can doesn't change that.

  • Why bother linking individual events to global warming when everything that happens is directly related to global warming?

Help fight continental drift.

Working...