Storm clouds
(Photo credit: rsvstks / Flickr)

Here is a frequently asked question: Was this storm caused by climate change? Or, worded more precisely: Was this storm intensified by higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere?

Until fairly recently, many scientists would answer with deflections: We can’t blame climate change for any one weather event; Though we can’t link any one event to climate change, this storm was consistent with what we expect; and finally, sometimes, All weather now occurs in the context of climate change.

But because of the rapid development of attribution science, now the answers can be much clearer and more useful to public understanding, to policy making, to potential lawsuits. These pieces will bring you up to speed – on the how, the why, and the so what.

Explainers: “The Decade of Attribution Science,” Jane C. Hu, Slate, December 2019 and “The Science Connecting Extreme Weather to Climate Change,” Union of Concerned Scientists, June 2018.

Interactive map: “How Climate Change Affects Extreme Weather around the World,” Carbon Brief, April 2020.

Two vivid recent examples elucidated: On the 2020 California wildfires and Atlantic hurricanes (from Vox) and on late 2020’s record hot temperatures in Australia (from the Guardian).

A database for specialists: Climate Attribution, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. (“A thematically organized repository of scientific information relevant to climate litigation and policy-making.”)


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

Topics: Climate Science, Weather Extremes