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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Detection and attribution of climate extremes in the observed record


We present an overview of practices and challenges related to the detection and attribution of observed changes in climate extremes. Detection is the identification of a statistically significant change in the extreme values of a climate variable over some period of time. Issues in detection discussed include data quality, coverage, and completeness. Attribution takes that detection of a change and uses climate model simulations to evaluate whether a cause can be assigned to that change. Additionally, we discuss a newer field of attribution, event attribution, where individual extreme events are analyzed for the express purpose of assigning some measure of whether that event was directly influenced by anthropogenic forcing of the climate system.

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