When is a weather disaster caused by climate change? A Grid NDQ Video

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‘No Dumb Questions’: When is a weather disaster caused by climate change — and how do scientists know?

The question arises almost every time some weather-induced calamity strikes: Did that happen because of climate change? A crushing heat wave, or a raging wildfire, a deadly hurricane or colossal flood; would it have happened anyhow? Did climate change make it worse? And — whatever the answers to those questions — how do we know?

It seemed a natural subject for our “No Dumb Questions” series, and there was no question as to who we’d ask. In this week’s segment, Grid Climate Reporter Dave Levitan tackles not only the basic answers, but also, as he puts it, the “complicated science involved in this” and the “clever ways” experts assess the impact climate change may have had on any given weather-related event. Among other things, Levitan explains what are known as “fingerprint attribution studies,” and what these tell us about how much climate change may have had to do with a particular disaster.

It’s all interesting. It’s hardly a dumb question. And unfortunately, given the frequency of such calamities, people will keep asking. Watch Levitan’s video here.

We’d love to hear from you with other ideas for the series. We like to think there are no “dumb questions”; or, put differently, that there’s almost nothing out there in the world of news and information that couldn’t use a little more clarity and context in terms of the answers. We also know that we have really smart readers, and that even the smartest among them can’t be expected to have every shred of important context or background on all the events that are roiling the world at any given moment. Send your ideas and questions to tips@grid.news.

More ‘No Dumb Questions’ videos

  • Dave Levitan
    Dave Levitan

    Climate Reporter

    Dave Levitan is a climate reporter for Grid where he focuses on interconnected stories about climate and science, and politics shaping action around both.

  • Tom Nagorski
    Tom Nagorski

    Global Editor

    Tom Nagorski is the global editor at Grid, where he oversees our coverage of global security, U.S.-China relations, migration trends, global economics and U.S. foreign policy.

  • Jake Garcia
    Jake Garcia

    Associate Producer, Multimedia

    Jake Garcia is a documentary filmmaker and multimedia producer for Grid.