Expert Report

Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change (2016)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concludes it is now possible to estimate the influence of climate change on some types of extreme events. The science of extreme event attribution has advanced rapidly in recent years, giving new insight to the ways that human-caused climate change can influence the magnitude or frequency of some extreme weather events. This report examines the current state of science of extreme weather attribution, and identifies ways to move the science forward to improve attribution capabilities.

Confidence is strongest in attributing types of extreme events that are influenced by climate change through a well-understood physical mechanism, such as, the more frequent heat waves that are closely connected to human-caused global temperature increases, the report finds. Confidence is lower for other types of events, such as hurricanes, whose relationship to climate change is more complex and less understood at present. For any extreme event, the results of attribution studies hinge on how questions about the event's causes are posed, and on the data, modeling approaches, and statistical tools chosen for the analysis.

Watch the video archive of the report release briefing here.