Doha, October 2021
Science Points the Finger at Global Warming for Deadly Heatwave
World-renowned scientists are convinced that the extreme weather that ravaged the Northern Hemisphere this summer can be attributed to global warming thanks to incredible advances in technology, reports the Al-Attiyah Foundation in its latest Sustainable Development Industry Report.
The United States and Canada incurred hundreds of heat-related deaths as temperatures soared across the Pacific-Northwest at the end of June and into July, including readings of 46.6 degrees Celsius in Portland, Oregon, and a Canadian record of 49.4 in British Columbia. The high temperatures contributed to crop failures and helped spawn wildfires, one of which destroyed the town of Lytton, British Columbia, where the Canadian heat record had just been set the day before.
Europe’s richest countries were also in disarray as rivers burst through their banks, submerging towns and slamming parked cars against trees. Locals were shellshocked at the intensity of the destruction left by the heavy rain. At least 230 people died across five European countries; Germany, the continent’s largest economy, accounted for 184 of the fatalities.
The flooding led to widespread power outages, forced evacuations and damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the affected areas. The floods are estimated to have cost up to €2.55 billion in insured losses, with the total damage costs being much higher.
Establishing a direct link between an individual case of flood, fire or storm and the broader climate is an evolving science and something that is still very difficult to do in practice. A catalogue of factors can influence a natural disaster, including local weather conditions, the shape of the landscape, human choices and natural variability.
Challenges aside, scientists soon got to work on what caused the scorching temperatures in the United States and Canada. By conducting rapid attribution analysis, researchers from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group determined that such a spike in temperatures would be “virtually impossible without climate change.”
Scientists used enormous quantities of weather data and cutting-edge climate models to compare what happened in the existing world, which has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the rise of industry and its accompanying emissions, to a hypothetical world in which humans had never pumped any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Results from the study showed that the heat wave, even though rare, was far more likely to occur in the current warmed world than in a world without warming. And if it had occurred in such a hypothetical world, it would not have been as hot.
“What we are seeing is unprecedented. You’re not supposed to break records by four or five degrees Celsius,” said Friederike Otto, of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, one of the climate scientists involved in the study. “This is such an exceptional event that we can’t rule out the possibility that we’re experiencing heat extremes today that we only expected to come at higher levels of global warming.”
Climate Change Science, the latest Sustainable Development Industry Report from the Al-Attiyah Foundation, takes an in-depth look at the scientific developments that have allowed us to chart global warming with greater accuracy.
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