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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

UK heat wave: Scientists say temperatures are getting ‘faster’ than their tools can calculate

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But the World Weather Attribution project, which conducted the analysis, also said the findings are likely an underestimate, warning that the tools available to scientists have limitations and create a blind spot for the role humans play in heat waves.

Heat waves are becoming more frequent and longer worldwide, and scientists say that human-induced climate change is impacting all of them.

To determine the human impact on extreme heat, scientists use a combination of observations and climate models, or simulations. Although models are often conservative in their findings, the observed extreme heat in Western Europe increased much more than estimated by the models.

“While models estimate that greenhouse gas emissions increased the temperature in this heat wave by 2˚C, historical weather data indicate that the heat wave would have been 4˚C cooler in a world that had not warmed by human activity,” WWA said in a statement. press release. . “This suggests that models underestimate the true impact of human-induced climate change on high temperatures in the UK and other parts of Western Europe. It also means that the results of the analysis are conservative and that climate change is likely to increase the frequency of the event.” increased by more than the factor of 10 estimated by the study.”

The United Kingdom experienced high temperatures last week, rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time on July 19, reaching 40.3 degrees Celsius in the English village of Coningsby. The UK government has issued its first-ever red-level extreme heat warning for several parts of England, including the capital London.
As temperatures rose, the country’s infrastructure collapsed. Train tracks bent; an airport runway melted; The London Fire Brigade declared a “major incident” when a number of fires broke out in what the service said were the busiest days since World War II.

People were advised to work from home, some schools were closed, hospitals and emergency services were pushed to their limits.

“In Europe and other parts of the world, we’re seeing more and more record-breaking heat waves causing extreme temperatures that have become hotter faster than most climate models,” said Friederike Otto of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, who leads the study. WWA project. “It is a worrying finding that suggests that if carbon emissions are not reduced soon, the impact of climate change on extreme heat in Europe, which is already extremely deadly, could be even worse than we previously thought.”

Any fraction of a degree of global warming will exacerbate the effects of the climate crisis. The world is already warming on average around 1.2 degrees Celsius, and there is a growing consensus that people should try to keep warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid tipping points, where some ecosystems the Earth depends on for its ecological balance. have difficulty recovering.

The scientists said the model results also pointed to a heat wave as intense as last week’s in the UK “still rare in the current climate”, with a 1% chance of it happening every year. However, weather data again suggests that the computer simulation results are conservative and that similar extreme heat events are also likely to become more frequent.

In response to the publication of the new WWA analysis, Dr. Radhika Khosla of the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment the scientists for their speed.

“By performing a rapid analysis based on established, peer-reviewed methods, the WWA team is able to get evidence-based results in the public domain, while we all understand the major disturbances from the extreme heat of previous years. This is the latest in a series of studies that all show the same result: climate change makes heat waves more likely and more intense,” Khosla said.

“The level of heat the UK is now experiencing is dangerous: it puts pressure on our infrastructure, economy, food and education systems, and on our bodies. As the study points out, many homes in the UK become uninhabitable in extreme heat. temperatures, building heat resistance with sustainable approaches and protecting people is an urgent priority as unprecedented temperatures become the norm.”

Peter Stott, a climate attribution scientist at the UK’s Met Office, said this won’t be the last time the country will have to deal with such extremes.

“Temperatures above 40C will reoccur, possibly in the coming years and very likely in the coming decades,” Stott said. “Only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions can we reduce the risks of such extremes becoming more frequent.”

Angela Dewan and Rachel Ramirez of CNN contributed to this report.

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