Heatwaves in Europe and typhoons cancelling World Cup Rugby – is there a connection to climate change?

Here in Oxford, at our Radcliffe Observatory, we've been monitoring and recording the weather every day for over 250 years (see Oxford Weather and Climate since 1767 for more info). But what can today’s weather tell us about climate change?

There have always been extreme events, but now researchers are trying to tell if these are being made more extreme, or more likely, by climate change. This is known as 'attribution science' by climate scientists.

To do this, scientists take a recent extreme event, such as the European heatwave in 2019, and then model the chance of this event happening both with and without climate change. They then compare both these results with historical data to see how the odds of the event have changed over time.

The research is showing that certain types of extreme events are being made more likely, and more extreme – a trend that looks set to continue as global temperatures rise. These events often disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

So while today's weather may not be directly related to climate change, some of the worst weather events can be harbingers of what climate change has in store for all of us.