Was human influence on climate responsible for the 2010 Russian heatwave?

In summer 2010 Western Russia was hit by a devastating heatwave – by far the warmest July since records began. To what extent this event was primarily natural in origin, or attributable to human-induced climate change, is a matter of intense controversy. New research, led by Professor Myles Allen and supported by members of the public running weather models under the weatherathome.net project, suggests that the correct answer is “both”. When we think in terms of the size of the event, it was indeed mostly natural, in that large-scale human-induced climate change made only a small contribution. But when we think in terms of probability, this small contribution substantially increased the probability of such a record-breaking event occurring in that year.

These findings are the first published results from the Weather at Home experiment, which, since November 2010 has been collecting regional Met Office climate model outputs from tens of thousands of individual PCs. The regional work, supported by Microsoft Research and the Environment Guardian, allows us to learn more about weather patterns at the scale of heatwaves, floods and hurricanes (for example), something that is not possible at the global climate model scale.

The experiment is part of climateprediction.net – the world’s biggest climate forecasting experiment – which since 2003 has run over 127 million models years via 660,000 globally distributed PCs.

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Reference

Otto, F. E. L., N. Massey, G. J. van Oldenborgh, R. G. Jones, and M. R. Allen (2012), Reconciling two approaches to attribution of the 2010 Russian heat wave, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L04702, doi:10.1029/2011GL050422.

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