Not every unusual weather event is a result of ‘climate change’

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a heat wave alert in many parts of the country including Maharashtra and Gujarat. The alert has been issued due to a combination of factors including the presence of a Western Disturbance over the Konkan region, causing a change in wind patterns, and prolonged dry weather.

There is no doubt that weather has always been a complex and ever-changing system, influenced by many factors, both natural and anthropogenic. However, in recent times, many people have started attributing every weather anomaly to climate change, ignoring the effect of natural variability.

Climate change is a serious concern, but it is important to understand that not every weather event is directly linked to it.

For example, we are currently experiencing a very hot February and many people are seeing it associating it with a warming world. But if experts and available data are to be believed, the current weather pattern, for this time of the year, is not at all unpredictable.

This is because the month of February is the transition month between winter and summer. The temperatures are definitely higher than the average, but still the temperatures are well within the normal range of temperature fluctuations seen during this period. In simple words, the present weather pattern is not due to climate change alone but it is also due to natural variability of weather.

Therefore, natural variability is one of the essential factors to consider when evaluating weather events. It illustrates the fluctuations inherent in climate systems, which can result in anomalous weather patterns. For example, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which is a natural oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon, can influence global weather patterns, causing significant changes in temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric pressure.

Another such example is the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a natural atmospheric circulation pattern that can significantly affect weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere. During a positive phase of AO, the polar jet stream strengthens causing severe winters in Eurasia and North America. Conversely, during a negative AO phase, the jet stream weakens, causing it to sink further south, resulting in relatively warm winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

Rising global temperatures are a result of anthropogenic climate change, but cannot be directly attributed to the natural variability in these temperatures during the winter months.

Note that some weather events are also the result of natural hazards, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. While human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and poor land use practices can exacerbate their effects, the occurrence of these natural disasters cannot be attributed to climate change.

Therefore, overall, while climate change is a serious concern that requires immediate attention, it is important to distinguish between natural variability and human-induced climate change when evaluating weather events.

By doing so, we can better understand the complexity of weather patterns, reduce the effects of natural disasters, and take the necessary steps to combat anthropogenic climate change.