Human activity-caused climate change has made this month’s record-breaking heatwave in Britain at least 10 times more likely, according to research released on Friday.
An all-time high of 40.3 °C (104.5 °F) was recorded in eastern England and a massive fire destroyed dozens of homes in London.
In all, at least 34 places in the UK recorded record highs on 20 July, when the heat wave peaked in Western Europe.
An international team of researchers modeled how likely such an extreme hot weather event was before the industrial era began in the mid-19th century.
They then compared this probability to heatwaves occurring in current climates – that is, the planet is on average about 1.2C hotter than in pre-industrial times.
They focused on maximum temperatures in the UK’s worst-hit region – central England and eastern Wales – and found that the record-breaking heat was at least 10 times more likely to be caused by human-caused greenhouse gases that cause global warming. .
The study found that extreme heat events across Europe had increased far more than climate models had predicted.
Computer-generated models estimated that greenhouse gas emissions caused a 2C increase in temperature in the summer of July. But in reality, the heatwave was 4C hotter than man-made warming.
Frederick Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, said: “In Europe and other parts of the world, we are seeing more and more record-breaking heatwaves, leading to extreme temperatures, that most climate models require. It’s heated up faster than that.” for climate change.
“This is a worrying finding that suggests that if carbon emissions are not sharply cut, the consequences of climate change on extreme heat in Europe, which are already extremely deadly, could be worse than we thought. “
In 2020 scientists at the UK Met Office calculated that temperatures above 40C in the natural climate – which is absent from human-caused warming – are likely to occur one in about 1,000 years.
Today that estimate is one in 100 years, but scientists involved in the study said the observed extreme weather was occurring even faster than models predicted.
“Even with the conservative estimate, we see a larger role of climate change in UK heatwaves,” said Maryam Zakaria, research associate at the Grantham Institute.
“Under our current climate, which has been altered by greenhouse gas emissions, many people are experiencing events during their lifetimes that would have been nearly impossible otherwise. And the longer we reach zero, the greater the heatwave It will get worse.”
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