The extreme rainfall that devastated parts of Europe last month has been made more likely and more severe by climate change, according to a new report. The showers, which swept through Germany and Belgium in July, were 3 to 19% more intense and 1.2 to 9 times more likely due to human-caused warming.
“It is difficult to analyze the influence of climate change on heavy rainfall at very local levels, but we were able to show that in Western Europe, greenhouse gas emissions made such events more likely.” , explains study co-author Sjoukje Philip to Matt McGrath for BBC.
Rainfall that swept through the region from July 12 to 15 killed more than 200 hundred people and forced thousands to flee their homes. Communities around the Ahr and Erft rivers in Germany and in the Meuse region of Belgium received between 5 and 7 inches of rain per day, according to the Washington post‘s Jason Samenow. Some areas of the region received as much rain in the space of a few days as they expected in an entire year.
“Extreme weather conditions are deadly,” says study co-author Friederike Otto, climatologist at the University of Oxford, at Reuters. She has family who live in some of the affected areas, adding: “For me it was very close to my home.”
Otto and other climatologists from the World Weather Attribution Project (WWA) were curious how much human-induced climate change had altered the likelihood and intensity of heavy rains in July. Using local weather records and climate models, the team analyzed the areas hardest hit by recent flooding: France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. . Then they compared the weather readings to a model of a world without human-caused warming, just 1.2 degrees Celsius colder than ours. Researchers found that climate change made severe flooding 1.2 to 9 times more likely and 3 to 19% more severe. The team says their wide range is due to limited historical records and damage to monitoring systems during flooding.
“This event demonstrates once again in 2021 that far-breaking extremes, exacerbated by climate change, can strike anywhere, cause enormous damage and cause death,” said the co-author from the study Frank Kreienkamp, climatologist at the German Meteorological Service, to David Vetter for Forbes.
Part of the reason why climate change means more precipitation is because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. Rising temperatures can also slow down weather systems, causing them to linger longer. A recent report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts more severe rains and flooding around the world, and this trend is likely playing out in other parts of the world.
Otto says we should prepare for flash floods like those in July, which should be a unique event in 400 years, become more frequent.
“We will certainly have more in a warmer climate,” Otto told Reuters. “These floods have shown us that even developed countries are not immune to the severe effects of extreme weather events that we have seen and known to worsen with climate change. This is an urgent global challenge and we must tackle it. The science is clear and has been for years. “
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