Global warming has increased the likelihood of torrential downpours like the one that lead to deadly floods in southern Louisiana by at least 40 percent, Henry Fountain reports for The New York Times. These dramatic findings were released today in a study that examined historical rainfall records and computer models that simulate climate change, Fountain reports.
The chances of extreme rainfall has grown by at least 40 percent, “[b]ut it’s probably much closer to a doubling of the probability” of such an event, or a 100 percent increase,” said Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for Climate Central, the research organization that coordinated the study. “Climate change played a very clear and quantifiable role,” she added.
Until recent years, scientists have said it is not possible to tie climate change to any single weather event, but attribution studies are changing that. As Fountain explains, attribution studies “use statistical analysis and climate modeling to compare the likelihood of an event occurring before industrialization, when there were essentially no greenhouse-gas emissions, and now, when the world is putting tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year.”
These complex studies normally take months, but the Louisiana study is the latest “rapid-response” research, sped by models that have already been run to quickly inform policymakers and the public about the climate connection to specific extreme weather events.
This study marks the first time that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has participated in a rapid attribution study, and it may not be the last — “Researchers, communities and businesses alike see the value in these analyses,’ said Monica Allen, a NOAA spokesperson. “They help us grapple with what has happened and strengthen our ability to stay resilient to future events.”
Image: Coast Guardsmen rescue stranded residents from high water during severe flooding around Baton Rouge, LA on Aug. 14, 2016 | Image Credit: Brandon Giles/U.S. Department of Agriculture