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  1. Abstract

    Attribution—the explanation of an observed change in terms of multiple causal factors—is the cornerstone of climate-change science. For anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the central causal factor is evidently ACC itself, and one of the primary tools used to reveal ACC is aggregation, or grouping together, of data, e.g. global mean surface temperature. Whilst this approach has served climate-change science well, the landscape is changing rapidly. First, there is an increasing focus on regional or local aspects of climate change, and on singular or unprecedented events, which require varying degrees of disaggregation. Relatedly, climate change is increasingly apparent in observations at the local scale, which is challenging the primacy of climate model simulations. Finally, the explosion of climate data is leading to more phenomena-laden methodologies such as machine learning. All this demands a re-think of how attribution is performed and causal explanations are constructed. Here we use Lloyd’s ‘Logic of Research Questions’ framework to show how the way in which the attribution question is framed can strongly constrain its possible and responsive answers. To address the Research Question ‘What was the effect of ACC on X?’ (RQ1), scientists generally consider the question ‘What were the causal factors leading to X, and was ACC among them?’. If the causal factors include only external forcing and internal variability (RQ2), then answering RQ2 also answers RQ1. However, this unconditional attribution is not always possible. In such cases, allowing the causal factors to include elements of the climate system itself (RQ3)—the conditional, storyline approach—is shown to allow for a wider range of possible and responsive answers than RQ2, including that of singular causation. This flexibility is important when uncertainties are high. As a result, the conditional RQ3 mitigates against the sort of epistemic injustice that can arise from the unconditional RQ2.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract In a recent very influential court case, Juliana v. United States , climate scientist Kevin Trenberth used the “storyline” approach to extreme event attribution to argue that greenhouse warming had affected and will affect extreme events in their regions to such an extent that the plaintiffs already had been or will be harmed. The storyline approach to attribution is deterministic rather than probabilistic, taking certain factors as contingent and assessing the role of climate change conditional on those factors. The US Government’s opposing expert witness argued that Trenberth had failed to make his case because “all his conclusions of the injuries to Plaintiffs suffer from the same failure to connect his conditional approach to Plaintiffs’ local circumstances.” The issue is whether it is possible to make statements about individual events based on general knowledge. A similar question is sometimes debated within the climate science community. We argue here that proceeding from the general to the specific is a process of deduction and is an entirely legitimate form of scientific reasoning. We further argue that it is well aligned with the concept of legal evidence, much more so than the more usual inductive form of scientific reasoning, which proceeds from the specific to the general. This has implications for how attribution science can be used to support climate change litigation. “The question is”, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.” “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). 
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  3. Abstract Our world is rapidly changing. Societies are facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of high impact and extreme weather and climate events. These extremes together with exponential population growth and demographic shifts (e.g., urbanization, increase in coastal populations) are increasing the detrimental societal and economic impact of hazardous weather and climate events. Urbanization and our changing global economy have also increased the need for accurate projections of climate change and improved predictions of disruptive and potentially beneficial weather events on km-scales. Technological innovations are also leading to an evolving and growing role of the private sector in the weather and climate enterprise. This article discusses the challenges faced in accelerating advances in weather and climate forecasting and proposes a vision for key actions needed across the private, public, and academic sectors. Actions span: i) Utilizing the new observational and computing ecosystems; ii) Strategies to advance earth system models; iii) Ways to benefit from the growing role of artificial intelligence; iv) Practices to improve the communication of forecast information and decision support in our age of internet and social media; and v) Addressing the need to reduce the relatively large, detrimental impacts of weather and climate on all nations and especially on low income nations. These actions will be based on a model of improved cooperation between the public, private, and academic sectors. This article represents a concise summary of the White Paper on the Future of Weather and Climate Forecasting (2021) put together by the World Meteorological Organizations’s Open Consultative Platform. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract This study offers an overview of the low-frequency (i.e., monthly to seasonal) evolution, dynamics, predictability, and surface impacts of a rare Southern Hemisphere (SH) stratospheric warming that occurred in austral spring 2019. Between late August and mid-September 2019, the stratospheric circumpolar westerly jet weakened rapidly, and Antarctic stratospheric temperatures rose dramatically. The deceleration of the vortex at 10 hPa was as drastic as that of the first-ever-observed major sudden stratospheric warming in the SH during 2002, while the mean Antarctic warming over the course of spring 2019 broke the previous record of 2002 by ∼50% in the midstratosphere. This event was preceded by a poleward shift of the SH polar night jet in the uppermost stratosphere in early winter, which was then followed by record-strong planetary wave-1 activity propagating upward from the troposphere in August that acted to dramatically weaken the polar vortex throughout the depth of the stratosphere. The weakened vortex winds and elevated temperatures moved downward to the surface from mid-October to December, promoting a record strong swing of the southern annular mode (SAM) to its negative phase. This record-negative SAM appeared to be a primary driver of the extreme hot and dry conditions over subtropical eastern Australia that accompanied the severe wildfires that occurred in late spring 2019. State-of-the-art dynamical seasonal forecast systems skillfully predicted the significant vortex weakening of spring 2019 and subsequent development of negative SAM from as early as late July. 
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