A new review looks at how much of the world’s extreme weather is down to human-driven climate change. 

Researchers have extensively reviewed the evidence of how climate change has influenced five kinds of extreme weather events, the impacts of these events in recent years, and just how much these impacts are directly linked to climate change. 

For example, heatwaves have increased in likelihood and intensity around the world due to climate change, with tens of thousands of deaths directly attributable. 

In another example, climate change has increased rain during tropical cyclones and storm surge heights. This increased rain has caused around half a trillion US dollars in damages in the North Atlantic. 

The review finds that the attribution of increased frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves to climate change has high confidence in many regions of the world. The study says the link with human-driven climate change is clear and unequivocal across the world, and that the extent of the impacts are likely being underestimated by insurers, economists and governments.

However, the attribution of intense precipitation events (and often associated floods) to climate change is more doubtful in most cases.

For other types of events, such as droughts, forest fires or tropical cyclones, there is even less confidence in their attribution to climate change. The experts say more studies are needed in different regions of the globe.

“This is the most comprehensive review to date of the understanding of the influences of climate change on five types of extreme weather events: extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, droughts, forest fires and tropical cyclones,” says Dr María José Sanz, scientific director of BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change. 

“This extends both the record of extreme weather impacts worldwide and the coverage of attribution studies across different events and regions, in particular the global south. The work represents an improvement over the analyses conducted in the Sixth Assessment Report of the Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

“It indicates that the attribution of some of these events to a greater or lesser extent to climate change has so far been underestimated.”

The study is accessible here.