3rd Attribution Workshop 

September 5, 2023

Approximately 60 attribution stakeholders participated in the 3rd Attribution Workshop held in August, including attribution scientists, students, professors, communicators, impacts and adaptation specialists, and climate services personnel from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The workshop ranged from discussion and documentation of how attribution science and services can better meet decision maker needs through to role-playing the completion of a rapid attribution statement for different decision makers.  

The workshop built on two previous NESP-Australian Climate Service attribution workshops in 2022 and workshops held by CLEX on attribution in 2019 and heat-health in 2018, as well as the International Detection and Attribution Group (IDAG) meetings in 2020 and 2023. Participants came from NESP Climate Systems Hub and Resilient Landscapes Hub, Australian Climate Service, universities and NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) in New Zealand. 

What is climate attribution?

From the IPCC: The process of evaluating the contribution of one or more causal factors to observed changes or events. 

State of attribution science in Australia and New Zealand 

Fifteen short presentations plus small panel discussions highlighted new developments in attribution science. Data considerations, new modelling approaches and novel ways to glean more information from approaches we’ve already seen were presented. The overwhelming sense was that people were keen for others to draw on the model runs they’d done, with need for more ‘naturalised’ experiments to round out the resource kit (for example, for attribution using UNSEEN).  

Decision maker needs from attribution science and services 

Monash University students presented a comparative analysis of the diversity of attribution-related decision-making needs, as well as the existing capabilities, enablers, constraints and pathways forward to meeting these needs. Results show that, to enhance outcomes, decision-makers require consistent, transparent and well-defined terminologies and methodologies, as well as increased emphasis on impact attribution, action-oriented communication and comprehensible science. These findings set up discussions throughout the rest of the workshop.  

Surveys were done and results will be shared in ~2months time. Early findings indicate that the attribution science and service community in Australia and New Zealand need to connect. 

Communication of attribution results 

University of Oxford PhD candidate Joshua Ettinger recommended the telling of a narrative is a useful way to share attribution results, while Dr Kim Reid, currently undertaking postdoctoral work with the Australian Research Councill (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEX), showed a dial that can synthesise all the lines of evidence. 

Towards operational attribution 

The potential fit of attribution information into climate services was highlighted (Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Climate Service and the National Climate Risk Assessment). Examples of triggers (for example, impacts vs climate extremes) from World Weather Attribution were presented as were examples of (semi-) operational early efforts in Australia and New Zealand. The attribution methods being developed under NESP Climate Systems Hub will support Australia’s efforts. 

Attribution through to impacts 

A special session took a deep dive on the various issues around taking attribution through to impacts and costs, an area now of high interest. Discussions covered a broad range of topics: from the capability to attribute impacts through the supply chain, to the health impacts associated with climate extremes. The conclusions were to be aware of the issues but to not hold off attempting this. There is already interest in a follow-on workshop or small working group on this topic. 


The workshop conducted a ‘weather gaming’ exercise to role-play extreme events. Three distinct weather extremes were described – heat in south-east, a rapidly intensifying tropical cyclone turning and hitting the coast further south than forecast and a heat extreme in northern Northern Territory. The experts on each event shared a tremendous amount of information around the aspects of each event that we have confidence, and where we still have room to improve. For instance, in northern Australia there are data limitations. Follow-up will include a case-study for a heat extreme in northern Northern Territory.  


Find out more:

Climate change and extreme events – quantifying the changing odds, CSIRO, Michael Grose (CSIRO) and Pandora Hope (Bureau of Meteorology)

Climate change attribution – calculating the role of climate change in natural disasters, CSIRO, Michael Grose (CSIRO) and Pandora Hope (Bureau of Meteorology)

Schematic of the steps to develop an attribution assessment, and the purposes of such assessments, IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis

Chapter 1: Framing, Context and Methods, IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis

Subseasonal to Seasonal Climate Forecasts Provide the Backbone of a Near-Real-Time Event Explainer Service, American Meteorological Society


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