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Odds are Overwhelming that Record Heat is Caused by Humans and Climate Change

First Posted: Jan 26, 2016 09:44 AM EST

Humans are almost certainly behind the changing climate at this point. Record warm years are likely caused by human-made climate change, and this change is likely to continue into the future.

"2015 is again the warmest year on record, and this can hardly be by chance," said Stefan Rahmstorf, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In this latest study, the researchers performed a sophisticated statistical analysis, combining observational data and comprehensive computer simulations of the climate system. Their new approach allowed them to better separate natural climate variability from human-caused climate change.

"Natural climate variability causes temperatures to wax and wane over a period of several years, rather than varying erratically from one year to the next," said Michael Mann, lead author of the new study. "That makes it more challenging to accurately assess the chance likelihood of temperature records. Given the recent press interest, it just seemed like it was important to do this right, and address, in a defensible way, the interesting and worthwhile question of how unlikely it is that the recent run of record temperatures might have arisen by chance alone."

The newly computed odds for experiencing the recent runs of record temperatures by chance are greater than odds previously reported in some media-between 1 in 27 million and 1 in 650 million. However, they're incredibly slim.

"Natural climate variations just can't explain the observed recent global heat records, but human-made global warming can," said Rahmstorf.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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