The fearsome heatwaves that seared western North America, southern Europe, and China in July would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, a new study has found.
Analysis by the World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) revealed that the furnace-like lethal heat spanning 18 days in parts of the United States and Mexico, 14 days in the lowlands of China, and one week in southern Europe “would have almost no chance of happening in a world without climate change,” reports the Washington Post. “The Chinese heatwave was made about 50 times more likely given global warming, the study found, while the European and North American heatwaves were at least 1,000 times more likely.”
Such lengthy and dangerous heatwaves “are not rare in today’s climate,” WWA co-leader Dr. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, told the Post. The level of greenhouse gases now in the Earth’s atmosphere is such that in any given year, North America has a one-in-15 chance of experiencing a severe heatwave. Southern Europe can expect a heatwave once every 10 years and China once every five, the study found.
“Without human-induced climate change, these heat events would however have been extremely rare,” wrote WWA. “In China, it would have been about a one in 250-year event, while maximum heat like in July 2023 would have been virtually impossible to occur in the U.S./Mexico region and Southern Europe if humans had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels.”
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