Extreme event attribution, also known as attribution science, is a relatively new field of study in meteorology and climate science that tries to measure how ongoing climate change directly affects extreme events (rare events), for example extreme weather events.[1][2] Attribution science aims to determine which such recent events can be explained by or linked to a warming atmosphere and are not simply due to natural variations.[3]


Attribution science was first mentioned in a 2011 "State of the Climate" published by the American Meteorological Society which stated that climate change is linked to six extreme weather events that were studied.[4]

Purpose, methods and findings

German climatologist Friederike Otto posited that attribution science aims to answer the question, "did climate change play a role" in specific extreme events "within the news time frame – so within two weeks of the event".[5]

Attribution studies generally proceed in four steps: (1) measuring the magnitude and frequency of a given event based on observed data, (2) running computer models to compare with and verify observation data, (3) running the same models on a baseline "Earth" with no climate change, and (4) using statistics to analyze the differences between the second and third steps, thereby measuring the direct effect of climate change on the studied event.[3][5]

Heatwaves are the easiest weather events to attribute.[3]

Climate change can affect the intensity and frequency of extreme weather differently, for example the 2010 Russia heat wave was made far more likely but not more intense.[3]

Applications and implications

Attribution science may affect climate change litigation, perhaps by increasing lawsuits against companies for causing and governments for not addressing climate change.[6][7]


See also


  1. ^ NASEM (2016). Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-38094-2. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  2. ^ "The Science Connecting Extreme Weather to Climate Change". Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Zeng, Zubin (25 August 2021). "Is climate change to blame for extreme weather events? Attribution science says yes, for some – here's how it works". The Conversation. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  4. ^ Hu, Jane (19 December 2019). "The Decade of Attribution Science". Slate. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b Sneed, Annie (2 January 2017). "Yes, Some Extreme Weather Can Be Blamed on Climate Change". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  6. ^ Harvey, Chelsea (2 January 2018). "Scientists Can Now Blame Individual Natural Disasters on Climate Change". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  7. ^ Schiermeier, Quirin (2021-09-08). "Climate science is supporting lawsuits that could help save the world". Nature. 597 (7875): 169–171. Bibcode:2021Natur.597..169S. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02424-7. PMID 34497398. S2CID 237452741.
  8. ^ "Climate change is driving 2022 extreme heat and flooding". Thomson Reuters Foundation. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  9. ^ Clarke, Ben; Otto, Friederike; Stuart-Smith, Rupert; Harrington, Luke (28 June 2022). "Extreme weather impacts of climate change: an attribution perspective". Environmental Research: Climate. 1 (1): 012001. doi:10.1088/2752-5295/ac6e7d. hdl:10044/1/97290. S2CID 250134589.
  10. ^ Fountain, Henry (4 March 2020). "Climate Change Affected Australia's Wildfires, Scientists Confirm". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  11. ^ Oldenborgh, Geert Jan van; Krikken, Folmer; Lewis, Sophie; Leach, Nicholas J.; Lehner, Flavio; Saunders, Kate R.; Weele, Michiel van; Haustein, Karsten; Li, Sihan; Wallom, David; Sparrow, Sarah; Arrighi, Julie; Singh, Roop P.; Aalst, Maarten K. van; Philip, Sjoukje Y.; Vautard, Robert; Otto, Friederike E. L. (11 March 2020). "Attribution of the Australian bushfire risk to anthropogenic climate change". Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Discussions: 1–46. doi:10.5194/nhess-2020-69. hdl:20.500.11850/475524.
  12. ^ "Extreme weather: How is it connected to climate change?". BBC News. 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  13. ^ Cho, Renee. "Attribution science: Linking climate change to extreme weather". phys.org. Columbia University. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  14. ^ a b Reed, Kevin A.; Wehner, Michael F.; Zarzycki, Colin M. (12 April 2022). "Attribution of 2020 hurricane season extreme rainfall to human-induced climate change". Nature Communications. 13 (1905): 1905. Bibcode:2022NatCo..13.1905R. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-29379-1. PMC 9005694. PMID 35414063.