While the rate of occurrence of extreme weather events continue to rise with climate change, not all extreme weather events are attributed to climate change. Using remote sensing technology, scientists can explain the difference.
In 2015, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the then-chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee brought a snowball to the Senate floor and said global warming could not be real because there was snow in Washington D.C. in February. Over the next 4 years, extreme weather events have continued to break records across the globe.
It could be tempting for environmentalists to blame all extreme weather on the climate, but it would be a false accusation. In fact, climate change may limit the number of extreme floods in Colorado. Using the Goddard Earth Observing System (GOES-5), scientists concluded that the 2013 Flood was a freak occurrence, likely unrelated to climate change. (see Hoerling. M. et al., 2018).
Using the high-resolution HadRM3P images from 1986-2015 were compared to the conditions in 2017. Human-driven GHG emissions which lead to increasing temperatures paired with the solar radiation deflected by aerosols (aerosol cooling effect) helped scientists identify a 100% higher likeliness of the 2017 Bangladesh monsoons occurring than without anthropogenic factors (Rimi, 2018). Similarly, by using remote sensing and GIS observations pairs with modeling, climate scientists were able to conclude that the heavy precipitation and flooding in China in June 2017 was also due to human influence (Sun, 2018), as were the Uruguay floods in the same year (de Abreu, 2017).
Separating anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic weather events with remote sensing, GIS, and modeling keeps climate science out of hyperbole, unlike Senator Inhofe’s presentation, and remain focused on data through observation.
de Abreu, R. (2018). Contribution of Anthropogenic Climate Change To April–May 2017 Heavy Precipitation Over The Uruguay River Basin. Explaining Extreme Events of 2017 from a Climate Perspective. (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society) 100: 37-42.
Hoerling. M. et al. (2018). Northeast Colorado Extreme Rains Interpreted in a Climate Context. Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective. (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society) 95:15-18.
Rimi, R. et. al. (2018). Risks of Pre-Monsoon Extreme Rainfall Events of Bangladesh: Is Anthropogenic Climate Change Playing a Role? Explaining Extreme Events of 2017 from a Climate Perspective. (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society) 100: 61-S65
Sun, Y. (2018). Anthropogenic Influence on The Heaviest June Precipitation In Southeastern China Since 1961. Explaining Extreme Events of 2017 from a Climate Perspective. (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society) 100: 79-84.