NOAA Study: Climate change makes heat waves more likely

20 times Texas heat wave last year 20x more likely according to NOAA/UK Met Office study

The conventional wisdom has been that you can’t pin one extreme weather event on climate change or “global warming.”

That may still be true, but we may have moved into a new era where climate change can be cited as having greatly increased the odds of extreme heat waves.

A NOAA/UK Met Office study released this week brings climate perspective to 6 extreme weather events from 2011.

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The analogy of climate change to individual extreme weather events has been used many times to a baseball player who uses steroids to boost home run numbers. You can’t say any one home run swing was caused by steroids, but can you say it increased the odds…or “loaded the dice” in favor of a home run?

Here’s an excerpt form the study.

One analogy of the effects of climate change on extreme weather is with a baseball player (or to choose another sport, a cricketer) who starts taking steroids and afterwards hits on average 20% more home runs (or sixes) in a season than he did before (Meehl 2012). For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not.

But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids. And given that steroids have resulted in a 20% increased chance that any particular swing of the player’s bat results in a home run (or a six), you would be able to make an attribution statement that, all other things being equal, steroid use had increased the probability of that particular occurrence by 20%.

As for the 2011 Texas heat wave, the study concludes the following.

We found that extreme heat events were roughly 20 times more likely in 2008 than in other La Niña years in the 1960s and indications of an increase in frequency of low seasonal precipitation totals. With 2008 serving as our proxy for 2011, this suggests that conditions leading to droughts such as the one that occurred in Texas in 2011 are, at least in the case of temperature, distinctly more probable than they were 40-50 years ago.

The study is detailed and may be one of the first to link specific extreme weather events to climate change.

Stay tuned….


  • mememine69

    The scientists always say that there “may perhaps” or “could be” etc., a climate crisis. They have never said they are 100% certain a climate crisis is imminent and about to happen at any time unless we stop it now. Kind of like; “Help my house is on fire maybe!”

  • city dweller

    What’s going on with next Monday? MPR’s forecast says 104. NWS says 92. Seems like an unusually large discrepancy. And will dew points be climbing again?

  • MoS

    @mememine69. Only somewhat utterly ignorant of the scientific method would not understand that science is purposely unable to give 100% certainty. Science does, however, accept high probabilities and strong consensus as in the case of anthropogenic global warming. Please stop being so juvenile.

  • Chuck Anziulewicz

    Anyone with half a brain can deduce that you can’t go pumping carbon into the atmosphere faster and faster, while mowing down the world’s rainforests, and NOT expect it to have an impact on the climate. Unfortunately I think we’ll continue to kick the environmental can down the road, because we don’t have the wherewithall to do what needs to be done: Put the brakes on population growth, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    With that in mind, maybe it’s time to just throw in the towel, and focus on the BRIGHT SIDE of Global Warming:

    1: Public swimming pools open on Groundhog Day, don’t close until Thanksgiving.

    2: No more of those pesky polar bear attacks … EVER AGAIN.

    3: You won’t have to drive to the beach. The beach comes to YOU!

    4: Business will be positively BOOMING at the Great Lakes alligator farms.

    5: No more movies about cutesy penguins.

    6: Fewer people freezing to death. Heatstroke is a much cozier way to go.

    7: Forget mowing the lawn anymore. Just let it die, then paint it green.

    8: “February showers bring March flowers!”.

    9: Those garishly-colored coral reefs will soon be a tasteful off-white.

    10: A new, FUN contest to rename Glacier National Park!

    11: Office dress codes revised to allow for “Clothing-Optional Friday.”.

    12: People less worried about going to Hell.

    13: Now maybe animals will abandon the cruel practice of wearing fur.

  • Vidura Barrios

    The first six months of this year were the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Twenty-eight states east of the Rockies set temperature records. Even though the science all points to man-created climate change, the PR machine of dirty energy companies keep spewing lies. We got to wake up.