Some July Heat: ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Climate Change, Analysis Finds
Some of the extreme temperatures recorded in the Southwestern United States, southern Europe and northern Mexico at the beginning of the month would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change, . During the first half of July hundreds of millions of people sweltered under intense heat waves. A heat wave in China was made 50 times as likely by climate change, the researchers said. World Weather Attribution, an international group of scientists who measure how much climate change influences extreme weather events, focused on the worst heat so far during the northern hemisphere summer. , temperatures in Phoenix have reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 43 Celsius, or higher for more than 20 days in a row. Many places in southern Europe are experiencing . A remote township in , breaking the national record. Without climate change, we wouldnt see this at all, said Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London and co-founder of World Weather Attribution. Or it would be so rare that it basically would not be happening. But in a climate changed by fossil fuel emissions, heat waves of this magnitude are not rare events, she said. Before the industrial revolution, the North American and European heat waves were virtually impossible, according to the researchers statistical analysis. Chinas heat wave would only have happened about once every 250 years. If the composition of the atmosphere remained at todays levels, the United States and Mexico could expect heat waves like the one this July about once every 15 years. In southern Europe, there would be a 1 in 10 chance each year of a similar event. In China theres a 1 in 5 chance each year of a reoccurrence. But because humans are continuing to burn fossil fuels and put extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the odds will continue to tip in extreme heats favor: even if we stop, temperatures will not cool again, they will just stop rising. The heat waves we are seeing now, we definitely need to live with, Dr. Otto said. As temperatures have climbed in Europe, Greece has faced a rash of wildfires that have forced the largest evacuations in the countrys history. The blistering heat , officials said. More frequent and more intense wildfires in the Mediterranean can also be linked to climate change, . We have rising risks from heat, said Julie Arrighi, director of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre and one of the researchers with World Weather Attribution. It is deadly. She emphasized the need to adapt cities and critical infrastructure to extreme heat, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Many local and national governments, especially in Europe, have created heat action plans that include things like public cooling centers, and advance warning and coordination between social services and hospitals. But even where these programs exist they are imperfect, and for now, the human cost of extreme temperatures remains high. The death toll from this months heat wont be clear for some time, but of heat-related causes, according to the national health secretary. Last summer, because of heat waves, according to another recent study. World Weather Attributions heat wave study was not peer-reviewed, but the findings are based on . The group uses more than a dozen climate models to compare observed temperatures from the real world with modeled projections of the planet without human-caused climate change. This methodology is very standard in the field, said Andrew Pershing, vice president for science at the nonprofit group Climate Central. He was not involved in the Tuesday study but has collaborated with World Weather Attribution in the past. The sheer heat much of the planet is currently experiencing is shocking in a historical context, Dr. Pershing said, but added that the findings of climate changes role are not surprising. The first two weeks of July were probably , according to an analysis by the European Unions Copernicus Climate Change Service. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts more unusually hot temperatures across most of the United States in August.