Climate change, climate justice and the application of probabilistic event attribution to summer heat extremes in the California Central Valley

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Mera, Roberto, Massey, Neil, Rupp, David E., Mote, Philip, Allen, Myles, and Frumhoff, Peter C.
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Probabilistic event attribution (PEA) is an important tool for assessing the contribution of climate change to extreme weather events. Here, PEA is applied to explore the climate attribution of recent extreme heat events in California’s Central Valley. Heat waves have become progressively more severe due to increasing relative humidity and nighttime temperatures, which increases the health risks of exposed communities, especially Latino farmworkers and other socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Using a superensemble of simulations with the Hadley Centre Regional Model (HadRM3P), we find that (1) simulations of the hottest summer days during the 2000s were twice as likely to occur using observed levels of greenhouse gases than in a counterfactual world without major human activities, suggesting a strong relationship between heat extremes and the increase in human emissions of greenhouse gases, (2) detrimental impacts of heat on public health-relevant variables, such as the number of days above 40 °C, can be quantified and attributed to human activities using PEA, and (3) PEA can serve as a tool for addressing climate justice concerns of populations within developed nations who are disproportionately exposed to climate risks.


Mera, Roberto, Neil Massey, David E. Rupp, Philip Mote, Myles Allen, and Peter C. Frumhoff. 2015. “Climate Change, Climate Justice and the Application of Probabilistic Event Attribution to Summer Heat Extremes in the California Central Valley.” Climatic Change, August, 1–12. doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1474-3.