UK heatwave: Scientists say temperatures are getting ‘hotter faster’ than their tools can calculate

But the World Weather Attribution Project, which carried out the analysis, also said its findings were likely to be underestimated, warning that the tools available to scientists have limits and create a blind spot on the role humans play. in heat waves.

Heat waves are becoming more frequent and longer globally, and scientists say human-caused climate change is having an influence on each one.

To determine the human influence on oppressive heat, scientists use a combination of observations and climate models or simulations. While models are often conservative in their conclusions, the extreme heat seen in Western Europe has increased much more than the models estimated.

“While models estimate that greenhouse gas emissions raised the temperatures of this heat wave by 2˚C, historical weather records indicate that the heat wave would have been 4˚C lower in a world that would not have been warmed by human activities,” WWA said in a press release. . “This suggests that the models are underestimating the true impact of human-induced climate change on high temperatures in the UK and other parts of Western Europe. It also means that the results of the analysis are conservative and that climate change has likely increased the frequency of the event by more than the factor of 10 estimated by the study.”

The UK experienced high temperatures last week which soared to over 40 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time recorded on July 19, reaching 40.3C in the English village of Coningsby . The UK government has issued its first-ever red-level extreme heat warning for several parts of England, including the capital, London.
As temperatures soared, the country’s infrastructure warped. Deformed railway tracks; an airport runway melted; London firefighters have declared a ‘major incident’ as a number of fires broke out, in what the service said were its busiest days since World War II.

People have been told to work from home, some schools have been closed, while hospitals and emergency services have been stretched to their limits.

“In Europe and other parts of the world, we are seeing more and more record-breaking heat waves causing extreme temperatures that have gotten hotter faster than in most climate models,” said Grantham’s Friederike Otto. Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, which leads the WWA project. “It’s a worrying finding that suggests that if carbon emissions are not quickly reduced, the consequences of climate change on extreme heat in Europe, which is already extremely deadly, could be even worse than we previously thought. “

Every fraction of a degree of global warming will cause the effects of the climate crisis to worsen. The world has already warmed by around 1.2 degrees Celsius on average, and there is a growing consensus that humans must try to keep warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid tipping points, where some ecosystems on which the Earth relies for its ecological balance may struggle to recover.

Scientists said the model results also indicated that a heatwave as intense as last week’s in the UK is “still rare in the current climate”, with a 1% chance of it occurring. every year. However, once again, the weather records suggest that the computer simulation results are conservative and that similar extreme heat episodes are likely to occur more frequently as well.

In response to the publication of the new WWA analysis, Dr Radhika Khosla of the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, praised the scientists for their speed.

“By performing rapid analysis based on established, peer-reviewed methods, the WWA team is able to bring evidence-based results into the public domain while we can all still remember major disruptions to last week’s extreme heat. This is the latest in a series of studies that all show the same result: climate change is making heat waves more likely and more intense,” Khosla said.

“The level of heat the UK is currently experiencing is dangerous: it is straining our infrastructure, our economy, our food and education systems, and our bodies. As the study points out, many homes in the UK Uni become uninhabitable in extreme heat. Adapting to rising temperatures, building heat resilience with sustainable approaches and protecting people is an urgent priority as unprecedented temperatures become the norm.”

Peter Stott, a climate attribution research scientist at the UK’s Met Office, said this won’t be the last time the country is forced to deal with such extremes.

“Temperatures above 40C will recur, possibly in the next few years and most likely in the next few decades,” Stott said. “Only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions can we reduce the risk of such extremes becoming more and more frequent.”

CNN’s Angela Dewan and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

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