Climate change has made the UK heatwave hotter, more likely

Climate change has made the UK heatwave hotter, more likely

Climate change has made the UK heatwave hotter, more likely

According to one study, man-made climate change made last week’s deadly heatwave in England and Wales at least 10 times more likely and added a few degrees to how brutally hot it did.

A team of international scientists found that the heatwave that set a new national record of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) was made stronger and more likely by the accumulation of heat-trapping gases. from the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. On Thursday, they said temperatures were 2 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer (3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the heatwave than they would have been without climate change, depending on the method the scientists used.

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but it follows scientifically accepted techniques, and the previous studies were published months later.

“We wouldn’t have seen temperatures above 40 degrees in the UK without climate change,” study senior author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, said in an interview. “The fingerprint is super strong.”

World Weather Attribution, a collection of scientists from around the world carrying out real-time extreme climate studies to see if climate change played a role in an extreme weather event and, if so, how much of one, looked at temperatures two-day averages for July 18 and 19 across much of England and Wales and the highest temperature reached during that time.

The highest daily temperatures were the most unusual, one event in 1,000 years in today’s hottest world, but “nearly impossible in a world without climate change,” the study says. Last week’s heat broke the old national record of 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit). The average of two warm days and nights is an event that recurs every century now, but it is “almost impossible” without climate change.

When scientists used England’s long history of temperatures to determine the impact of global warming, they saw a stronger influence of climate change than when they used simulations from climate models. For some reason scientists aren’t entirely sure about, climate models have long underestimated extreme weather signals in the summer in Western Europe, Otto said.

With climate models, scientists simulate a world without the 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial warming and see how likely this heat would have been in that colder world without fossil fuel warming. . With observations they examine the history and calculate the chances of such a heatwave in this way.

“The methodology looks good, but I honestly didn’t need a study to tell me it was climate change,” said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, who was not part of this study group but was part of the study. of a US National Academy of Scientific Committee which stated that these types of studies are scientifically valid. “This new era of heat is particularly dangerous because most homes aren’t equipped for it.”

The World Weather Attribution study references another analysis which estimates that a heat wave like this would kill at least 800 people in England and Wales, where there is less air conditioning than in warmer climates.

Otto, who had to sleep and work in the basement due to the heat, said that as the world warms, these record-breaking heat waves will continue to arrive more frequently and warmer.

In addition to encouraging people to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, study co-author Gabe Vecchi said, “This heatwave and heatwaves should remind us that we have to adapt to a warmer world. We don’t live in our parents’ anymore. world.

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears

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