Climate change played role in 2014's extreme weather, report says

Human-caused climate change contributed to many extreme weather and climate events in 2014, according to a report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says report's findings can help people adapt

Firefighters battle flames from the King fire near Fresh Pond, Calif., in September 2014. New scientific analysis shows man-made climate change played a role in 14 extreme weather events in 2014, hitting every continent but Antarctica. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Human-caused climate change contributed to many extreme weather and climate events in 2014, according to a report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The fourth annual report, titled Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, looked at individual extreme weather events such as wildfires, winter storms and floods.

This year, 32 groups of scientists investigated 28 individual extreme events in 2014, attempting to determine whether human-induced climate change played a factor in their severity, or if they fell under the range of "natural variability."

Floods in Prairies

The report found human-induced climate change was responsible for some of the events on every continent except Antarctica.

In North America, it found climate change influenced events such as wildfires in California, and tropical cyclones in Hawaii. Other events like the extreme winter in 2013-14 were found to be largely caused by natural variability.

The report specifically mentioned climate change and land use both playing a role in floods across the Canadian Prairies in 2014. A hydrology report in 2014 similarly attributed the floods, in part, to farmers draining wetlands.

A new report says human-induced climate change and land use played a part in much of the flooding across Canada's Prairie provinces in 2014.

'Ground-breaking science'

The report stresses that while researchers did not find evidence of climate change affecting several of these events, that doesn't necessarily rule it out. In such cases, "this means that if there is a human contribution, it cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability," reads the report.

"Understanding our influence on specific extreme weather events is groundbreaking science that will help us adapt to climate change," said Stephanie C. Herring, the report's lead editor.

"As the field of climate attribution science grows, resource managers, the insurance industry, and many others can use the information more effectively for improved decision-making and to help communities better prepare for future extreme events."

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