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Maps Display How Climate Change Affects Current US Temperatures

Does climate change affect the weather in my area? The consequences of global warming on US temperatures are displayed in real time using a free web tool.

Scientists have grown more and more confident in their abilities to identify the major role that climate change is playing in the recent record-breaking high temperatures.

The impact of greenhouse emissions on US temperatures over the last 24 hours and up to two days in ahead is now estimated in real time using a free online application. After years of debate among experts about the viability of automated analysis, the Princeton, New Jersey-based research nonprofit Climate Central started developing its new Climate Shift Index last summer.

We wanted something that could make a statement about any temperature, ordinary temperatures, cool temperatures, said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at Climate Central.

Any US location’s daily high and low temperatures are compared to the climate there before global warming using the Climate Shift Index. The tool uses a color-coded scale from -5 to 5 to rate everyday temperatures. The multiplier by which climate change has increased the likelihood of a given temperature in a specific place on that day ranges from 1 to 5. Negative values represent lower, less frequent temperatures. Consider a region of the country that is graded -3 and is experiencing cooler-than-average temperatures. That indicates that the likelihood of experiencing that weather has decreased by a third.

In several areas of western Texas, southern New Mexico, central Louisiana, and Florida, “exceptional” low daily temperatures on Friday (at the time of this writing on Wednesday) are now at least five times more likely than they were before climate change. The locations of the country shown in white on the map either lie within the previous climate’s range or were the sites of variable team performance.

Sometimes winter masks incredibly aberrant temperatures, as in Wisconsin and Minnesota in December, which were fives on the CSI scale and abnormally warm. This did not garner the same level of public interest as the disastrous summer heat waves.

According to Pershing, Climate Central researchers collaborated with Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, on their methodology but not on the tool itself. Otto is in charge of the World Weather Attribution project, which looks for climate signals in extreme weather within days or weeks of it occurrence.

The majority of WWA’s analyses center on how adverse weather makes people more susceptible to damage. In addition to heat, the research also looks at droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods. The automated Climate Central tool cannot provide that degree of analysis. The CSI is a purely statistical instrument that solely examines temperature values.

The new tool may allow WWA and other analysts to focus more on challenging weather in other areas where scientists have previously ignored it and where there is a lack of weather data going back as far as the US or Europe. This is because it provides bouncing estimates of the climate impacts of US weather.

It’s very complementary to WWA’s work, Otto said. It’s about everyday weather, purely from a meteorological point of view, to give people a sense of how climate change is touching their experience.

Three techniques are used by the Climate Central team to analyze the temperature data. Two of them base their decisions on historical temperature information and how much a region has warmed in relation to the more than 1.1° Celsius worldwide average. A third technique examines the findings of simulating climate history in research models both as it actually occurred and without greenhouse-gas pollution in order to arrive at an estimate.

In the upcoming months, the Climate Shift Index’s geographic coverage is anticipated to grow beyond the US.

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