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expert reaction to rapid attribution analysis by the World Weather Attribution looking at the Pakistan flooding and attribution

An analysis by World Weather Attribution has looked at the Pakistan flooding and attribution.


Prof Ted Shepherd, Grantham Professor of Climate Science, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“The study highlights the vulnerability of Pakistan to climate change.  But the report also makes clear that a focus on the role of climate change is an overly narrow lens, because the catastrophic impacts resulted from a number of factors, of which climate change is only one (and this case, a rather uncertain one).  The climate vulnerability in this region is the result of human decisions, both historical and more recent, as well as an apparent failure to learn from past flooding events.  Working towards a more climate-resilient society is an urgent imperative.”


Dr Akshay Deoras, Research Scientist, National Centre for Atmospheric Science & Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“Unequivocally, Pakistan has witnessed unprecedented flooding during the 2022 summer monsoon season.  As the study suggests, many meteorological factors were responsible for triggering heavy precipitation, including a series of long-lived Bay of Bengal monsoon low-pressure systems.  The press release accurately reflects the science that climate change had a role in intensifying precipitation and flooding over Pakistan.  More importantly, the press release clearly outlines the limitations of the study that quantification of the role of climate change in intensifying floods was not possible due to constraints in the simulation of monsoon rainfall over the Indus basin.

“I don’t think that the scientific report is derived from a peer-reviewed journal paper.

“The quality of research is satisfactory, and the authors have used multiple datasets to account for uncertainties in observations.  However, some aspects need clarification.  First of all, the role of a monsoon low-pressure system in triggering rainfall between 25 and 27 August cannot be ruled out.  In fact, this particular event appears to be a result of a weak interaction between a western disturbance and a monsoon low-pressure system over western Rajasthan/eastern Pakistan.

“Secondly, the heat low may not have influenced the movement of monsoon low-pressure systems towards Pakistan.  Wet land surface conditions over central and western India could have provided a favourable scenario, enhancing the lifespan of these low-pressure systems.  It is also not clear how negative Indian Ocean Dipole could enhance the lifespan of these systems by providing additional moisture.  In fact, this point contradicts with previous studies suggesting that positive Indian Ocean Dipole is more favourable for increasing the lifespan of low-pressure systems.

“Global warming will continue to exacerbate the frequency and intensity of extreme flood events in the near future, and this study shows how projections of climate models are becoming a reality even if quantification remains challenging due to model uncertainties.  Having said that, there is a need to beef up the warning system in the region since the occurrence of monsoon low-pressure systems could be well predicted at forecast lead times of over two weeks.”


Dr Leslie Mabon, Lecturer in Environmental Systems, The Open University, said:

“This study illustrates very well what scholars in disaster studies have long argued: namely, that there’s no such thing as a natural disaster.  It is of course true that climate change makes weather extremes of this nature more likely.  But the study also shows how political decisions over issues such as river engineering, disaster preparation planning and agricultural policy can influence who and where is most badly effected by extreme events, and the extent to which people are able to adapt.  As existing scholarly evidence is showing us all too often across a range of contexts, the study indicates that for these floods in Pakistan, it is once again the worst-off and the least empowered who are hit hardest.

“Although the study does not yet appear to have gone through the scientific peer review process, that does not necessarily mean it is of lower quality.  The authors have based their analysis on models that are widely considered in the scientific community to be of good quality, and have a well-established protocol for undertaking rapid scientific assessments of weather extremes like this.  The authors are also very careful to outline the limitations of their work, especially when it comes to acknowledging what current models cannot tell us about the extent or severity of climate change.  The scientific peer review process can take months, so systematic yet cautious research like this study, underpinned by good data and tried and tested models, is valuable in giving a rapid assessment of how climate change is impacting different parts of the world.

“Scientifically, this study stands as an excellent example of how bringing together academic expertise from a range of disciplines – and not only the natural sciences – gives a much fuller understanding of where our climate vulnerabilities lie, and of what we need to do in response.  Elements of history, political science, sociology, gender studies and many other fields of enquiry all combine here to give us a very rich insight into how a climate-related disaster plays out.  This study reminds us that the social sciences, arts and humanities are absolutely vital when it comes to understanding climate change.  Interdisciplinary work like this is extremely valuable to society, but it does require scientists, universities and research funders to change the ways they think about how we do research.

“Yet as the study authors highlight, it is also important not to put the responsibility for addressing these factors solely on the authorities in Pakistan.  The authors show how the legacies of plans and policies put in place during the colonial era continue to influence disaster preparedness and climate change responses in Pakistan today.  The study is therefore another reminder of the responsibility wealthier countries have to less developed nations to provide financial and technical support for adapting to climate change, and to provide compensation for loss and damage we are seeing today as a result of historical and ongoing actions.

“Lastly, although we have good understanding at a global scale of how global heating impacts the climate and weather extremes, understanding precisely what climate change means at a regional level is more challenging.  One of the biggest problems we face is that the parts of the world that are being hit hardest and fastest by a changing climate – which often means the least wealthy countries at lower latitudes – are the places for which our models, knowledge and data are especially limited.  Pakistan is no exception in this regard.  This study is hence an impressive effort to engage with climate change scientists working in Pakistan, and to integrate the available data over very short timeframes.  It is absolutely crucial that global organisations concerned with climate change and disasters continue to engage with scientists who are working on the ground in the places that are worst affected by climate change, and to ensure these researchers have the knowledge and tools to predict impacts and understand how to respond effectively.”



‘Climate change likely increased extreme monsoon rainfall, flooding highly vulnerable communities in Pakistan’ by Friederike E. L. Otto et al. is a rapid attribution analysis by the World Weather Attribution that is under embargo until 22:00 UK time on Thursday 15 September 2022.

There is no journal paper.



Declared interests

Prof Ted Shepherd: “None”

Dr Akshay Deoras: “I don’t have a conflict of interest.”

Dr Leslie Mabon: “Dr Leslie Mabon is responding to the study in an individual capacity, based on his professional expertise. Dr Mabon is employed by the Open University as a Lecturer in Environmental Systems and has an honorary role as an ambassador for the National Centre for Resilience in Scotland. Both organisations are committed to evidence-driven understanding of issues such as climate change in the public interest. Neither organisation has had any influence over the nature of Dr Mabon’s comments.”


For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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