Gavin Schmidt had an interesting Twitter thread about discussing the link between extreme weather events and climate change. I’ve included an image of the thread on the right (click on it to expand) but the basic suggestion (with which I agree) is that there will always be some who try to control the story and deligitimise other voices, but it is generally worth exploring the relationship between climate changes and extreme weather events. This should, however, be grounded in the science.
When it comes to any weather event, asking if it was caused by anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is silly, since this question is ill-posed; it’s not even that we can’t answer it, it’s more that it’s a question that doesn’t even really make much sense. There are, however, links to climate change that are worth exploring. Sea levels are rising, and much of this can be attributed to AGW. Sea level doesn’t rise evenly everywhere, but in regions where it has, storm surges would be higher than they would be otherwise. Warmer air can hold more water vapour, so there is the possibility of more extreme precipitation events.
When it comes to something like a Tropical Cyclone, there is a thermodynamic limit to the maximum wind speed that increases as the climate warms. Hence, climate change makes it possible for there to be more intense Tropical Cyclones (TCs). However, these are very complex systems and there are some indications that we may see fewer TCs overall, but an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest ones.
The key point is that even though we can’t make direct attribution claims about individual weather events, we can say something about how climate change might influence these types of events. For example, we expect an increase in the intensity and frequeny of extreme precipitation events, extreme TCs, and we expect sea level rise to exacerbate storm surges. It’s certainly my view that we shouldn’t shy away from discussing these links, even if some regard it as a politically sensitive topic. It really shouldn’t be, given that discussing how climate change might be influencing extreme weather events doesn’t immediately tells us how we should respond to this information. Being aware of this information, however, might make it more likely that the response will be appropriate.
Anyway, one reason I wanted to write this was to post the video below, which shows Kerry Emmanuel discussing how climate change will probably influence tropical cyclones.