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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters

 

Keywords

  • Russian heat wave
  • attribution study
  • regional climate change

Index Terms

  • 1626 - Global climate models
  • 1630 - Impacts of global change
  • 4313 - Extreme events

Paper in Press

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, doi:10.1029/2011GL050422

Reconciling two approaches to attribution of the 2010 Russian heat wave

Key Points
  • Former studies on the Russian heat wave 2010 are not contradictory.
  • Russian heat wave 2010 likely attributable to anthropogenic climate chang

Authors:

Friederike Elly Luise Otto

Neil Massey

Geert Jan van Oldenborgh

Richard G. Jones

Myles R Allen

In the summer 2010 Western Russia was hit by an extraordinary heat wave, with the region experiencing by far the warmest July since records began. Whether and to what extent this event is attributable to anthropogenic climate change is controversial. Dole et al. (2011) report the 2010 Russian heat wave was ``mainly natural in origin' whereas Rahmstorf and Coumou (2011) write that with a probability of 80% ``the 2010 July heat record would not have occurred' without the large-scale climate warming since 1980, most of which has been attributed to the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. The latter explicitly state that their results ``contradict those of Dole et al. (2011)'. Here we use the results from a large ensemble simulation experiment with an atmospheric general circulation model to show that there is no substantive contradiction between these two papers, in that the same event can be both mostly internally-generated in terms of magnitude and mostly externally-driven in terms of occurrence-probability. The difference in conclusion between these two papers illustrates the importance of specifying precisely what question is being asked in addressing the issue of attribution of individual weather events to external drivers of climate.

Received 21 November 2011; accepted 23 January 2012.

Citation: 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., doi:10.1029/2011GL050422, in press.