A heatwave in late April in southern Europe and northern Africa would have been “nearly impossible” were it not for the additional impacts of human-caused climate change, a new study published on Friday says.
In fact, the study found, record-breaking heat is now 100 times more likely to be caused by climate change.
In the last week of April, temperatures in many regions of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria jumped to their highest levels ever for the month with many locations recording readings in the high and low 90s percent.
A weather event of this intensity “was almost impossible in the past, a colder climate,” study senior author Sjokje Philipp of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute said in a news briefing, adding: “We will see more intense and frequent heat waves in the future as global warming continues.” “.
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Heat waves are more common, longer and hotter
Scientists say climate change around the world is making heat waves more common, longer and hotter.
Last summer, during a particularly severe heat wave in the United States, there was “no doubt” that heat waves were becoming more intense and frequent in the United States and around the world because of climate change, said Michael Mann, a meteorologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Using peer-reviewed published methods, the scientists in the new study looked at how human-induced climate change the likelihood and intensity of a heat wave in the Mediterranean. The analysis examined the average maximum temperature for three consecutive days in April across southern Spain, Portugal, most of Morocco and the northwestern part of Algeria.
The researchers found that climate change made a heat wave “at least 100 times more likely” and temperatures were 6 degrees higher than they would be without climate change.
Scientists said the intense heat came on top of a historic multi-year drought in those states, which could be exacerbated by high temperatures.
Early season heat waves can be deadly
The study said that although death data from the heat wave in April was not available, heat waves in 2022 contributed to nearly 4,000 deaths in Spain and more than 1,000 deaths in Portugal.
The World Health Organization has said that at least 15,000 people will die in Europe due to high temperatures in 2022.
And although these deaths occurred in the summer, the fact that temperatures were so high in April was concerning:
Study co-author Rob Singh, of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said, “Early season heat waves tend to be more deadly because people have not yet prepared their homes or acclimatized to summer temperatures.” In Spain, for example, we implemented heat wave adaptation measures earlier than usual, which is exactly the kind of adaptive heat action we need to see more of to reduce preventable heat-related deaths.”
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Quick reference studies like this one are becoming more and more popular
Scientists say that quick-report climate studies like this one, which have become more common in recent years, are valuable even though they have not been peer-reviewed.
“Attribution is the only tool we have for understanding whether extreme weather is fueled by climate change,” said Stanford climate scientist Rob Jackson, who was not part of the study. “Rare weather events are becoming more and more ‘normal’. Climate change has loaded the weather dice.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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