This is Your Atmosphere on Drugs

A new report on extreme weather compares climate change to steroids

The tornado that tore through Joplin, MO in May was one of the worst of last year's extreme weather events. But tornadoes have one of the more tenuous connections to climate change.

As we’ve noted before, last year was packed with extreme weather events, but it’s difficult to out-and-out blame any particular one of them on climate change. Explanations are often along the lines of, “This is the kind of thing that could become the norm in the future.” The science just isn’t quite there to able to pinpoint any single event and say exactly what caused it.

To try to sort out what we know from what we don’t, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a consortium of universities doing earth science research, has a new feature on its website, “In Depth: Weather on Steroids,” about that science: the science of attribution, as in, what can we attribute to climate change?

The site helps explain why attribution is so tricky, why it’s important, and how it’s improving.

It also has a handy video that compares the atmosphere to a baseball player, and climate change to steroids. If the player hits a home run, can you say that particular home run was due to the steroids?

The science is growing. As models get more specific, as computers get more powerful and can analyze more granular data, attributions–and predictions–will improve, too.

This is Your Atmosphere on Drugs 7 February,2012Molly Samuel

One thought on “This is Your Atmosphere on Drugs”

  1. yes, drugs is a good choice of words for the atmosphere —  aerosol spray that is unregulated and contains barium and aluminium… we, the trees, water, etc. are now on “their” drugs.  see  and for info — and be awake to what is going on in the sky… massive pollution with unintended consequences.  Think Fukishima, Gulf, Amazon, Nigeria, tar sands, whales, sonar….

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Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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