Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Many climate scientists have been reluctant to directly attribute natural disasters and extreme weather events to global warming. But 2018 forced their hand.
Increasingly, climate scientists are making the connection between climate change and record-setting weather events -- storms, droughts, floods, fires, heat waves, cold spells and more.
New statistical analysis methods and increasingly accurate climate models have allowed climate scientists to more confidently quantify the culpability of rising CO2 levels each time disaster strikes. In 2018, disaster struck often.
The hurricane season produced several larger storms and a few odd ones. Hurricane Florence defied trajectory predictions, steering farther north than any previous storm on its route to the East Coast. Its slow collision with the Carolinas caused record flooding.
Hurricane Michael became the strongest hurricane in recorded history to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle. Its tremendous winds caused significant damage and triggered record storm surges.
Subtropical and tropical storms, as well as hurricanes, were born, moved and ended up in strange places throughout the season. The first storm, Subtropical Storm Alberto, which formed before hurricane season began, ended up in Michigan before finally petering out.
Storm Leslie maintained hurricane strength while 195 miles off Lisbon, Portugal, another place no hurricane has ever been.
While the year's hurricane season was strange and destructive, the two most powerful storms of 2018 were born in the Pacific. Super Typhoon Yutu, a Category 5 storm, lashed the Northern Mariana Islands with 180-mph winds. Not to be outdone, Super Typhoon Mangkhut produced winds topping out at 200 mph. Mangkhut's path never crossed land.
The water-filled city of Florence, Italy, experienced its worst flooding in decades after heavy winds, rains and waves raised water levels five feet.
In Kerala, India, thousands were left homeless and hundreds died after the largest monsoon in a century caused record flooding, leaving the west coast of southern India devastated.
France's Aude River experienced its worst flash floods in a century. Twelve people were killed.
In the United States, historic rainfall events in Wisconsin and Michigan -- six inches in nine hours in one instance -- caused damaging floods in August. Another 1-in-1,000-year rainfall event hit the Colorado Rockies over the summer, causing flash floods and mudslides.
In Ellicott City, Md., a May storm dropped six inches in three hours, causing a historic flash flood only two years after the town was ravaged by similarly dramatic torrential rains.
Though wildfires blazed throughout the American West, most of the attention was focused on California's deadly wildfire season. California's Camp Fire became the deadliest wildfire in state history after it killed at least 85 people in November. July's Ranch and River fires burned 500,000 acres, making the so-called Mendocino Complex blaze the largest fire in California's history.
Several thousand more acres and hundreds of buildings were damaged by Los Angeles' Woolsey Fire and Ventura County's Hill Fire.
Heat records were broken all over the world in 2018. Los Angeles experienced a new record high in July when thermometers registered 111 degrees Fahrenheit. California's Death Valley registered highs of 127 degrees for three days.
In Northern Europe, several locations within the Arctic Circle experienced record highs, including an 89.2-degree day in Sodankyla, Finland. On the far northern tip of Norway, temperatures crested at 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
The month of May was the hottest on record across both the United States and Europe.
In Quriyat, Oman, temperatures remained above 108 degrees for an entire day, and in Algeria, thermometers registered 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even normally cool places like Quebec, Canada, and Japan experienced heat waves with temperatures in the upper 90s.
Planet Earth experienced rising temperatures as a global average -- not as a single heat wave -- with the year's average surface temperature making 2018 the fourth-hottest in recorded history.
Role of climate change
No single weather event can be entirely blamed on climate change. Natural climate variability is always a factor. But the scientific evidence for the role of climate change in encouraging more extreme weather more often is now overwhelming.
Rising CO2 levels and increasing air, surface and ocean temperatures can influence the planet's weather patterns in a variety of ways. Because hot air can hold more moisture, it's likely storms born under warmer conditions will grow larger and drop more rain.
Several studies have suggested the diminishing temperature difference between the tropics and the Arctic is to blame for slower moving weather patterns. When storms move more slowly, they can drop more rain in one location, causing record floods.
Stalling weather patterns can contribute to all kinds of extreme weather. When heat and drought lasts for longer periods of time, for example, the odds of damaging wildfires increase. California's record wildfires followed a period of extreme heat and little rain, with high winds helping to spread the flames.
Earlier this year, scientists published research showing a slowdown in planetary waves in the upper atmosphere were to blame for sluggish summertime weather patterns. Researchers linked the slowdown in atmospheric waves in the upper troposphere with Arctic warming.
News Photos of the Year
A mother and child sit in front of Benito Juarez shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, on November 27. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers congregated
south of the U.S. border. Some were tear gassed attempting to approach the international line and many had been in the camps for weeks. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI
With growing frustration at the length of the asylum process, migrants climb over the border fence that divides the United States and Mexico on December 2 near Las Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI
Former President George W. Bush becomes emotional as he delivers remarks at the funeral for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on December 5. He said
while it was a sad day, his father can now hug his daughter, Robin Bush, who died at age 3, and hold the hand of Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Former Sen. Bob Dole salutes the casket of former President George H. W. Bush as the 41st president lies in state
at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, in Washington, D.C., on December 4. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Sully, the service dog for George H. W. Bush, rests in front of the coffin. Sully's next mission will be to serve other war veterans. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., participates in the National March on the NRA in front of the NRA Headquarters on August 4 in Fairfax, Va. Behind Gonzalez is a poster of Joaquin Oliver, one of the students who died in the shooting
. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Sir Paul McCartney (L) and wife, Nancy Shevell, listen to speakers at the March for Our Lives demonstration in New York City on March 24. Hundreds of thousands of kids and adults across the country participated in rallies as part of the March for Our Lives
movement that was born out of the Valentine's Day Parkland shooting. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Cindy McCain, wife of former Sen. John McCain, prays by the casket as he lies in state at the U.S. Capitol on August 31. McCain, an Arizona Republican, presidential candidate and war hero, died
August 25 at age 81. He is the 31st person to lie in state at the Capitol in 166 years. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
The family follows as McCain's casket is moved from the chapel on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy after a service on September 2 in Annapolis, Md. The casket was carried by horse-drawn caisson to the cemetery at the Naval Academy, where McCain was buried. File Photo by David Hume Kennerly/McCain Family
A time exposure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 29. On board the Dragon spacecraft was nearly 6 tons of supplies and experiments, including the first robot with artificial intelligence. File Photo by Joe Marino/Bill Cantrell/UPI
Mark Vande Hei snapped this "space selfie" during the first spacewalk of the year on January 23. NASA astronauts Hei and crewmate Scott Tingle ventured outside the International Space Station to perform maintenance on the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm during a seven-hour and 24-minute spacewalk. Photo courtesy of NASA
its next-generation Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center on February 6. Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world, with the ability to lift more than twice the payload of the next vehicle, at one-third the cost. The rocket launched SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster into space. File Photo by Joe Marino/Bill Cantrell/UPI
A Chinese dancer performs during an international cultural expo in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, on September 26. Dunhuang, like many cities across China, is holding an international fair to attract foreign tourism and investment. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Chinese tourists ride camels at the Crescent Lake area at the edge of dunes surrounding Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China, on September 27. China is fighting against an increasingly urgent desertification problem as around 27 percent of China is covered by desert. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Palestinians demonstrators hold a weekly protest along the Israel-Gaza border, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 5. Three Palestinians were killed
, including a child, and dozens were injured. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/ UPI
Palestinians hold their national flag aloft during a protest
to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, and against United States' plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, near the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah on May 14. Dozens of Palestinians were killed. Nakba refers to the period when Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes when present-day Israel was formed in 1948. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands in front of the Military Demarcation Line at the Joint Security Area on the Demilitarized Zone in the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on April 27. It was the first time a North Korean leader had crossed the border since the Korean War. File Photo by Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/UPI
President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Kim on June 12 in Singapore in what is the first meeting
between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. File Photo from Pool TV/UPI
Trump hugs Kanye West during a meeting
in the Oval Office of the White House on October 11. Trump later signed the Music Modernization Act that protects copyrights in the digital age, which was highly anticipated in the music industry. File Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
The president kisses first lady Melania Trump. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Trump playfully checks his hair after seeing it on a monitor prior to making remarks
at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23 in National Harbor, Md. Thousands of conservative activists, Republicans and Tea Party Patriots gathered to hear politicians and radio and TV hosts speak, lobby and network for the conservative cause. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Demonstrators march from Portland Place to Trafalgar Square in a protest against Trump's visit to Britain on July 13 in London. Trump met
with British Prime Minister Theresa May after a frank interview he gave to a tabloid newspaper that renounced her Brexit plan.. File Photo by Joel Goodman/UPI
Chinese attendants pose for photos during the opening session of the National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives to meet with May at 10 Downing Street in London on March 7. The crown prince was on a three-day visit
to England that was marked with protests over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Later in the year, he was implicated by many in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
A protester dressed as Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad bin Salman demonstrates October 19 outside the White House with members of the activist group Code Pink to call attention to Khashoggi's disappearance. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Britain's Prince Harry (L), duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, duchess of Sussex, kiss as they exit St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding
ceremony, in Windsor, England on May 19. File Pool Photo by Neil Hall/UPI
Britain's Princess Charlotte holds hands with her mother, Kate Middleton, duchess of Cambridge, as they leave St, George's Chapel after the wedding. File Pool Photo by Neil Hall/UPI
Cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are seen on the west front of the Capitol Building as part of a demonstration by the activist group Avaaz on April 10. The group called on Facebook to remove fake accounts and bots as well as respect personal data of its users. Zuckerberg apologized
to lawmakers before Congress later that day. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The family of the Rev. Billy Graham watches as his casket is carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol on February 28 to lie in the Rotunda. It’s a rare honor for a private citizen to lie in honor at the Capitol, Graham is the fourth in history. Graham died
in his sleep at his North Carolina at 99 years old. File Photo by Susan Walsh/UPI
Bill Cosby gives the OK sign as his car pulls away from Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.., after closing arguments in his sexual assault trial on April 24. Cosby was convicted
and sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison in September. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Aly Raisman (L), two-time Olympian and victim of abuse by former Team USA Dr. Larry Nassar, listens during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on solutions to protect athletes on July 24. Raisman filed
a lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over sexual abuses by Nassar. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Harvey Weinstein arrives at Manhattan Federal Court for a hearing on October 11 in New York City. The former Hollywood mogul is facing rape and other sex charges from several women. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Christine Blasey Ford testifies
before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on September 27. A professor at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. File Photo by Win McNamee/UPI
Kavanaugh testifies before the committee later the same day, rejecting the allegations by Ford and other women. Kavanaugh was confirmed
to the highest court after a 50-48 vote on October 6. File Photo by Saul Loeb/UPI
Demonstrators protest Kavanaugh's nomination to the high court outside Sen. Susan Collins's office on Capitol Hill on September 24. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shouts at Democratswhile questioning Kavanaugh
during the September 27 hearing. File Photo by Win McNamee/UPI
Voters stand in line at a polling station at the Magoba Farm in Mashonaland Central, Zimbabwe, during national elections on July 30 -- the first national election since former President Robert Mugabe stepped down on November 21, 2017. President Emmerson Mnangagwa was re-elected
after a court dismissed his opposition's allegations of fraud. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Illinois Democrats in Chicago on November 4. Obama campaigned
for Democratic candidates across America before the midterm election on November 6. File Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI
Rep.-elects, from left to right, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla. and Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, huddle together to stay warm during the group photo for the new members of the upcoming 116th Congress on November 14. A record
number of women were elected to Congress during the midterm election. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Marie Elchysyhn (L), 87, is comforted by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. Jennifer Seetoo while standing in front of the ruins of her home in Westlake Village, Calif., on November 13. The wildfires
in Northern and Southern California killed dozens, destroyed thousands of structures and forced over 150,000 people to evacuate. File Photo by John McCoy/UPI
Garden statues sit in the front yard of a burned-out house in Paradise, Calif., on November 15. The entire town was destroyed. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Spc. Sean Westmoreland, Spc. Herbert Joyner and Pfc. Jeremy Grant of the 153rd Charlie Troop in Tallahassee, Fla., hang the American flag on a piece of debris after Hurricane Michael hit in Mexico Beach, Fla., October 13. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
A life-size Bugatti Chiron made from Lego is on display at the biennial Paris Motor Show on October 2. It is the oldest motor show in the world, dating back to 1898. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
A Chinese woman poses for a photo in front of rows of an art display of dogs celebrating the Year of the Dog in Beijing on May 8. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Dogs dressed in costume compete at the East Village annual Halloween dog parade at the East River Park Amphitheater on October 28 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A Mandarin duck
native to East Asia swims in a the pond in Central Park in New York City on November 4. It's unclear how he got to Manhattan but he appears healthy and is getting along well with the local mallards. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A mural on Houston Street in Manhattan highlighting the case of a Turkish artist who was jailed for nearly three years over a painting is unveiled by British street artist Banksy on March 16. Zehra Dogan was imprisoned in 2017 for her painting of a damaged Turkish city. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI