Climate change making heat waves 10x as likely in Europe

By James Ayre, Clean Technica, 8 July 2017 

Climate change, and more specifically the overall warming of the global climate, was a noted driver of the recent June 2017 heatwave in Europe, according to a new analysis from researchers involved with Climate Central’s World Weather Attribution program and partners.

The analysis found that anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-driven warming has increased the intensity and frequency of extreme heat by as much as 10 times.

The new analysis is just one in a long line of work to show that the increasingly extreme temperatures and weather seen in many parts of the world in recent years is partly the result of anthropogenic climate change.

Climate Central provides more: “The heat wave was the result of hot, dry air moving northward from over northern Africa earlier in the summer season than is typical for such heat events, especially in northwestern Europe. … Spain and Portugal saw the highest temperatures, with much of the southern Iberian Peninsula surpassing 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius). One of the highest temperatures recorded was 109° Fahrenheit (43° Celsius) in Evora, Portugal, on June 18. … To evaluate the role of global warming in the recent heat wave, the researchers used both historical temperature observations and climate models to see how the odds of such an event have changed over time and to compare the odds in a climate with and without warming, respectively.

“They found that the likelihood of such a heat wave had at least doubled across the region and was up to 10 times more likely in the worst-hit places, Spain and Portugal. What was once a rare heat event can now happen every 10 to 30 years, and is more likely to happen earlier in the summer.”

Unfortunately, what was a debilitating heatwave in 2017 will be nothing special fairly soon. In other words, this June’s heatwave in Europe will be typical of the month before too long, certainly before the end of the century. And a European heatwave in a few decades will be significantly worse than the one in 2017.

Alongside the direct concerns of strong heatwaves is also the impact that rising temperatures will have on agricultural productivity and water availability. Diminishing food and water availability in combination with a growing population and with ever present cultural and ethnic divisions makes for a dangerous situation. The coming decades are very likely to be a considerably tumultuous period of time in Europe.