“When you go to the doctor and the doctor sees a pack of cigarettes in your pocket, he or she isn’t going to say, ‘You’re going to die of lung cancer,’ ” he said. “But the doctor can say, ‘I see you’re smoking cigarettes. I can tell you that’s going to raise the odds of lung cancer, and I can tell you how much it’s going to raise the odds of lung cancer.’ ”
It’s easier to find the fingerprint of climate change in some events, such as the oceanic heat waves that have damaged fisheries and coral reefs worldwide in recent years.
“The increase in odds has been so great, you could almost say this would not happen without climate change,” Richard Black, director of the London-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, told Seeker.
But in the past year, researchers have published the results of 43 studies looking into the weather-climate connection and found evidence of that link in 32 of them, Black’s nonprofit research firm reports. And they’re able to produce those conclusions faster, sometimes while a longer-running event like a heat wave or a drought is still going on.
“I think that makes a massive difference in terms of public awareness,” Black said. “You’re getting the analysis out there while the event is still very fresh in the public memory.”
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When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just put out its annual Arctic Report Card, it found that temperatures in the far North are going up at twice the average rate of the rest of the world. This was, the report said, “driving broad change in the environmental system in predicted and, also, unexpected ways.”
The effect that warming appears to be having on weather in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is also under close scrutiny. Much of that weather is driven by the jet stream, an atmospheric current driven by the temperature difference between the Arctic and the warm air of the lower latitudes. When the temperature difference between those regions shrinks, the jet stream gets weaker — and a weaker current tends to meander. It flows in slow waves, bringing blasts of cold Arctic air southward behind it while drawing warm air northward.