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Ocean-based weather event attribution model progressing well
August 11, 2023

In 2022, Climate Central developed a novel approach that extends attribution science, allowing quantification of climate change’s “fingerprints” on daily local temperatures. This approach was applied to current conditions and forecasts, enabling scientifically sound statements about the role of climate change while a weather event was developing.

With funding from the CO2 Foundation, Climate Central proposed to extend this approach to develop a similar demonstration system for ocean temperatures.

During the past year, the project team acquired sea surface temperature data from observations and climate models; adapted Climate Shift Index temperature-attribution software to calculate likelihoods and attribution metrics for ocean-based events; evaluated system output for well-studied ocean temperature events and presented preliminary attribution estimates for well-documented marine heatwaves; and extracted track lines and intensities of tropical cyclones, integrating attribution metrics along the storm tracks and comparing them with storm intensity, focusing on storms that underwent rapid intensification.

The team hopes to have a preliminary operational system running later this year, and has already started folding in lessons learned from its experience with the original Climate Shift Index to begin thinking about messaging and communication tools for media and other climate communicators. In doing so, Climate Central will support accurate, timely discussion of the role of climate change on the formation of hurricanes and other ocean-influenced extreme weather events.