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New Zealand Faces a Future of Flood and Fire

New Zealand is grappling with two consecutive extreme weather events—massive flooding followed by a cyclone—that have claimed at least 12 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people without power. The high winds and waters of Cyclone Gabrielle have washed away coastal roads on the north island and left bridges splintered and broken. Landslides have covered tarmac with slick mud, and houses and streets across have been left under feet of water, only weeks after heavy rain also caused widespread floods. The country has declared a national state of emergency for just the third time in its history.

New Zealand’s climate change minister, James Shaw, wasted no time in pointing the finger at the root cause of the weather disasters, telling the New Zealand parliament: “This is climate change.” 

He may well be right, but the evidence from attribution studies is yet to come, says James Renwick, a climate scientist and professor at the Victoria University of Wellington. The cyclone itself isn’t unusual for New Zealand, as they regularly spin out of the tropics and get close…

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