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Tackling the Climate Attribution Puzzle

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorSeptember 8, 2011 10:04 PM


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In Nature this week, Quirin Schiermeier has written the most lucid, evenhanded article I've read yet on the vexing issue of extreme weather/climate change attribution. He also reports on some notable developments. For example, Quirin writes that

in the past year, climate researchers in the United States and Britain have formed a loose coalition under the banner 'ACE' "” Attribution of Climate-related Events "” and have begun a series of coordinated studies designed to lay the foundations for a systematic weather-attribution programme. Ultimately, the group hopes to create an international system that could assess the changing climate's influence on weather events almost as soon as they happen or even before they hit, with results being announced on the nightly weather reports.

There's a related and (equally excellent) editorial in the same issue, which asserts that climate scientists

have an obligation to provide more coherent answers to queries (or doubts) as to how global warming influences our weather. An attribution system with ample resources, running in near real time, could prevent scientists' answers to those questions seeming either too cautious or too alarmist and speculative. It could also prevent the public from getting the (false) impression that climate research is confined to the virtual world of climate models and has little to offer when it comes to current reality, or that climate science is a quasi-experimental field that yields scary but mostly unverifiable results.

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