The fingerprint of human-caused climate change has been found on heatwaves, droughts and floods across the world, according to scientists.
The discovery indicates that the impacts of global warming are already being felt by society and adds further urgency to the need to cut carbon emissions. A key factor is the fast-melting Arctic, which is now strongly linked to extreme weather across Europe, Asia and north America.
Rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have long been expected to lead to increasing extreme weather events, as they trap extra energy in the atmosphere. But linking global warming to particular events is difficult because the climate is naturally variable.
The new work analysed a type of extreme weather event known to be caused by changes in “planetary waves” – such as California’s ongoing record drought, and recent heatwaves in the US and Russia, as well as severe floods in Pakistan in 2010.