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How Global Warming Affects Weather: Why Can’t We Get the Story Right?

The Intersection
By Chris Mooney
Jun 20, 2011 7:48 PMNov 20, 2019 5:20 AM


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Joe Romm is upset by this recent John Broder piece on climate and extreme weather, entitled “Scientists See More Deadly Weather, but Dispute the Cause.” So am I. There are such better ways to tell this complex, but still important story. There are three fundamental points here that every story on this topic should get across:

1) No single weather event is caused by climate change; climate is defined as the sum total of weather, so the effect of a climate change on weather is only detectable in the aggregate statistics. 2) For some types of severe weather, such as tornadoes, the science doesn’t currently allow us to say that global warming is making them worse. So that shouldn’t be stated. 3) Nevertheless, global warming represents a key change operating in background of all weather—there's more overall heat. This is certain to have a wide array of consequences—like a greater risk of heat waves, and more intense precipitation events--and indeed, some of those are already being detected.

Is that hard? For another good explanation see here.

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