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** This seminar has been cancelled **

A Changing Planet seminar given by Friederike (Fredi) Otto, Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute – University of Oxford, and organised by students on the SSCP DTP.

Angry weather: How climate change is affecting extreme weather events around the world?

In scientific reports, political debates and the media, the measure of global climate change around the world is global mean (average) temperature rise. This is used as the metric to determine how humans are changing the climate by burning fossil fuels. It is, however, not this abstract measure of temperature that will cause loss and damage from climate change: instead, it is the impacts of climate change, which primarily manifest through rising sea levels and the changing risks of extreme weather events (droughts, heat waves, extreme precipitation), which often lead to large scale damage.

For a long time, it has not been possible to make the (arguably) crucial link between man-made climate change to individual weather and climate-related events with confidence, but this has changed more recently.

Quantifying and establishing this link has been the focus of the emerging science of extreme event attribution. Attribution studies enhance climate science in two ways:

  • It allows us to understand what climate change means today, to every one of us, it brings climate change from an abstract future threat, to a concrete reality today
  • Secondly, and more importantly, disentangling predictable drivers of an extreme event like climate change from natural variability and changes in vulnerability and exposure will allow a better understanding of where risks are coming from, and in turn how they can be addressed.

Extreme events open a window to address the problem of exposure and vulnerability. Scientific evidence of the importance of different drivers is essential to avoid playing blame games and allows for a well-informed debate about addressing risk.



Friederike (Fredi) is the Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute – University of Oxford and an Associate Professor in the Global Climate Science Programme. She leads several projects that are enhancing our understanding of the impacts of man-made climate change on natural and social systems, with a particular focus on Africa and India.

Her main research interest is on extreme weather events, improving and developing methodologies to answer the question ‘whether, and to what extent do external climate drivers alter the likelihood of extreme weather?’ She furthermore investigates the policy implication of this emerging scientific field.

Fredi is co-investigator on the international project World Weather Attribution which aims to provide an assessment of the human-influence on extreme weather in the immediate aftermath of the event occurring.


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