Weather-wise, the UK saw it all last year. The coldest
spring for 50 years, a sweltering summer heat wave and the wettest
winter since records began. Today, a new report examines whether
climate change is upping the odds of these events occurring.
The collection of papers, published in a
bumper edition of journal Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society, looks at 16 weather events that took place
last year across the world. From Colorado to Korea, the scientists
examine heatwaves, droughts, heavy rain and storms.
Globally, there is
evidence for changes in some types of extreme weather, and
evidence for a human fingerprint in those changes. But different
types of event are affected differently.
Climate change is greatly increasing the odds of
heatwaves worldwide, today's report concludes. For storms, rainfall
and drought the picture is less clear, however. Big differences
between regions, natural variability in the climate and limited
data make detecting changes over time far more difficult.
The science of disentangling human and natural
influences on our climate is known as attribution. Dr Peter Stott,
head of the climate change detection and attribution team at the
Met Office and an editor on the report, explained more in a
guest blog for us:
"[The aim is] to compare what
actually happened with what might have happened in a world without
anthropogenic climate change."
Understanding how our activities are changing the risk
of some types of extremes is important for making decisions about
how we can prepare for the future.
In summer 2013, western Europe experienced an extreme
heatwave. Average temperatures for the June to August period sit
just below those of 2003 - the hottest summer in Europe for at
At the same time, the UK experienced its hottest day
since 2006 with temperatures of 33.5 degrees Celsius recorded at
Heathrow airport, the report notes.
Sun-seekers flock to Margate in July 2013.
UK heatwave via Shutterstock