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Supporting ocean-based weather event attribution
June 21, 2022

The CO2 Foundation is proud to be supporting Climate Central’s leadership in communicating clearly about the influence of climate change on weather events. We’re providing resources that will allow the organization to expand its new Climate Shift Index to enable real-time estimates of the influence of climate change on hurricanes.

The Climate Central team is currently celebrating its launch of the world’s first service for daily local temperature attribution—that is, putting a number on the influence of climate change on the most current observations and forecasts. This tool, the Climate Shift Index, provides numerical estimates of how climate change is impacting daily high and low temperatures.

Climate Central has long been a leader in attribution science—a fast-developing field of research that seeks to quantify the role that climate change plays in extreme weather events. Among its accomplishments is the co-creation of World Weather Attribution. This initiative puts a number on the influence of climate change on select individual extreme weather events; does it quickly in order to bring results into the news cycle; and eliminates the outdated public narrative that individual events cannot be tied to warming.

In “A multi-method framework for global real-time climate attribution” (June 2022), Dr. Daniel Gilford, a core member of Climate Central’s work on attribution, introduces a new framework to enable the production and communication of global real-time estimates of how human-driven climate change has affected the likelihood of daily weather events. This is an air temperature-based methodology; since signals in the ocean are a lot stronger, the team believes it will be able to develop a similar attribution methodology for ocean temperatures. Indeed, more than 90% of excess heat is stored in the ocean, and that ocean heat exacerbates the intensity of major weather events like hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, and nor’easters.

After the basic ocean-temperature methodology is developed and tested, the team hopes to operationalize this work in a way that can provide real-time data on the influence of climate change on individual ocean-influenced extreme weather events, using visualizations similar to its current tools for air temperature.

Two members of the team conveyed their enthusiasm for this work: Dr. Andy Pershing, Director of Climate Science, is looking forward to utilizing his extensive oceanography expertise on this project. Climate Scientist Daniel Gilford grew up in central Florida and lives in Orlando; the importance of understanding how climate change is driving big changes in his state, like sea level rise and of course hurricane activity, is very clear from his vantage point.

As sophisticated attribution science tools like this are developed, it becomes increasingly clear not just THAT extreme weather events are related to climate change, but HOW. The CO2 Foundation team is pleased to be able to support such a well-defined project within the ambitious scope of Climate Central’s work, contributing to another powerful opportunity to engage audiences in grappling with the impacts of a changing climate on their daily experiences.