Wash.: Does Climate Change Cause Extreme Weather Now? Here’s a Scorcher of a Reality Check

The Pacific Northwest was hit with a record-shattering heat wave in June, with temperatures over 35 degrees higher than normal in some places. On June 28, Portland, Ore., reached 116 degrees. Late last week the region suffered another blast of hot weather, with a high in Portland of 103 degrees. The New York Times didn’t hesitate to pronounce the region’s bouts of extreme weather proof that the climate wasn’t just changing, but catastrophically so. To make that claim, the Times relied on a “consortium of climate experts” that calls itself World Weather Attribution, a group organized not just to attribute extreme weather events to climate change, but to do so quickly. Inconveniently for World Weather Attribution, an atmospheric scientist with extensive knowledge of the Pacific Northwest climate was actively running weather models that accurately predicted the heatwave. Cliff Mass rejected the notion that global warming was to blame for the scorching temperatures. He calculated that global warming might have been responsible for two degrees of the near 40-degree anomaly. With or without climate change, Mass wrote, the region “still would have experienced the most severe heat wave of the past century.”

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