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Reactions to study attributing heatwaves to climate change and warning that their impact is greater than believed

British researchers have analysed the extent to which various types of extreme weather events are attributable to climate change. In the case of heatwaves, they find an unequivocal link. They estimate that the 35 worldwide between 2000 and 2020 have caused at least 157,000 deaths and warn that it is very likely that the impact of this phenomenon is being underestimated.


28/06/2022 - 11:04 CEST
Expert reactions

Ernesto Rodríguez Camino - olas de calor y cambio climático EN

Ernesto Rodríguez Camino

Senior State Meteorologist and member of Spanish Meteorological Association

Science Media Centre Spain

Dr Friederike Otto is a pioneer in near-real-time attribution studies of extreme weather events. Attribution studies determine the role of climate change in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves or tropical cyclones. This requires two essential sources of information. On the one hand, numerical simulations capable of reproducing the observed extreme event and, on the other hand, observations that allow the different aspects of the event to be characterised.

Limited access to observations has limited and continues to limit further attribution studies to prepare affected sectors for increasingly frequent and intense weather extremes, a consequence of ongoing anthropogenic climate change.

This paper comprehensively reviews the role of anthropogenic climate change in extreme weather and climate events. While the attribution of increased frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves to climate change has high confidence in many regions of the world (including the Mediterranean), the attribution of intense precipitation events (and often associated floods) to climate change is more doubtful in most cases.

For other types of events, such as droughts, forest fires or tropical cyclones, there is even less confidence in their attribution to climate change and more studies are needed in different regions of the globe.


The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

María Jose Sanz - olas de calor y cambio climático EN

María José Sanz

Scientific Director of the BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change, member of the IPCC Bureau and president of the Alliance of Severo Ochoa Centres and María de Maeztu Units (SOMMa)

Science Media Centre Spain

This is the most comprehensive review to date of the understanding of the influences of climate change on five types of extreme weather events: extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, droughts, forest fires and tropical cyclones. This extends both the record of extreme weather impacts worldwide and the coverage of attribution studies across different events and regions, in particular the global south. The work represents an improvement over the analyses conducted in the Sixth Assessment Report of the Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

It indicates that the attribution of some of these events to a greater or lesser extent to climate change has so far been underestimated.

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest
Extreme weather impacts of climate change: an attribution perspective
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
Environmental Research: Climate
Publication date

Friederike Otto et al.

Study types:
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
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