Climate change’s potential impact on hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding is unclear

According to studies on weather attribution, a wave of high heat, storms, and wildfires are all related to human-caused climate change.

Between the coasts From biblical flooding in Libya to sweltering heatwaves in the northern hemisphere, catastrophic extreme weather events have dominated the headlines recently.

climate change

Climate change has been primarily held responsible for an apparent increase in catastrophic weather disasters as the earth continues to warm due to still-rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“The summer’s dog days are more than just barking. They’re biting you. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared that “climate breakdown has started” after learning that the months of June to August 2023 were the warmest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere.

How much of a heatwave or major storm, though, is attributable to global warming and how much is just due to weather variability?

The comparatively recent science of weather attribution provides an answer to this topic. It aims to determine the degree to which climate change induced by humans, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, raises the probability and severity of extreme weather events.

Climate Change made devastating early heat in India and Pakistan 30 times  more likely – World Weather Attribution

No hurricane is entirely a result of climate change, but it is impacted by it in many different ways, according to Delta Merner, lead scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Science Hub for Climate Litigation. “Attribution science can assist us in elucidating the precise contribution of climate change to these various events.”

Due to climate change, wildfires in Canada are now twice as likely.

Wildfires destroyed almost twice as much land as the previous record when they swept from the Canadian east to west coast in the summer of 2023.

World on Fire: 2023 is Canada's worst wildfire season on record — and it's  not over yet

In response, UK-based researchers World Weather Attribution (WWA) carried out a more thorough investigation than usual to ascertain the extent to which human-driven climate change increased the possibility of the unprecedented conflagration.

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The investigation, which was concentrated on the province of Quebec, came to the conclusion that climate change contributed to dry, “fire-prone” weather that was 20–50% more intense than usual. Extreme fire weather conditions were more likely in eastern Canada by more than a factor of two.

Canadian wildfire smoke returns to parts of the Midwest and Northeast

The hotter and drier weather accelerated the start of the fire season and lengthened its duration, for example, by causing snow to melt more quickly.

According to WWA, studies that estimate the likelihood of extreme weather events with or without climate change are more accurate and confident as a result of improvements in climate modeling and better access to meteorological data.

Italian floods: climatic factors not to blame

Extreme weather occurrences aren’t usually a direct result of the climate issue.

Catastrophic floods in Italy force thousands of people to evacuate

Three rainstorms in May 2023 in Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy, sparked massive landslides and flooding that were considered to be the worst in a century.

However, despite the fact that there are more instances of extreme weather caused by climate change worldwide, researchers came to the conclusion that this was an isolated incident.

Researchers, including Friederike Otto, a climatologist at Imperial College London and co-founder of WWA, discovered that the amount of rainfall in the spring in Emilia-Romagna has not increased or decreased with climate change. The study examined rainfall records going back to 1960.

The study’s authors concluded that climate change could not have prevented this specific 21-day rainy episode, which was a once-in-200-year occurrence with a 0.5% annual chance.

According to Davide Faranda, an Italian researcher at the Institute Pierre-Simon Laplace and one of the study’s authors, the flooding was brought on by extremely rare and extraordinary weather conditions that were “driven by an unprecedented sequence of three low-pressure systems in the central Mediterranean.”

Floods in Libya and Greece: Ambiguous effects of climate

A WWA analysis indicated that human-induced planetary heating increased the likelihood of the torrential rains by up to 50 times after Storm Daniel caused flooding in Libya that led to the collapse of two dams and the deaths of thousands of people in early September. It was up to ten times more likely that the same storm would cause significant floods in central Greece.

Libya flooding: More than 5,000 presumed dead in Libya after catastrophic  floods

Quantifying the impact of climate change on these floods proved more difficult after an exceptionally hot summer that left a “very clear climate change fingerprint,” according to Otto.

Scientists examined weather data from the environment before the 1880s with the current climate, which has warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) since then, in order to determine whether temperature rise has caused higher rain in the area.

According to the report, “large mathematical uncertainties” were incorporated into the analysis because the weather patterns encompassed comparatively small areas and “most climate models do not represent rainfall on these small scales well.”

Greek rescue teams move into worst-hit flood villages

But it also stated that “studies project heavier rain in the region as temperatures rise” and that, for instance, local weather station data in Greece demonstrated a trend toward heavier rain.

Otto stated that with just 1.2 degrees Celsius of warming, “we would expect a 10% increase” in rainfall intensity because a warmer atmosphere can contain more moisture.

In 2023, record summer heatwaves will be a climate hallmark.

The connection between excessive temperature and global warming is far more obvious than the one between rainfall.

In a report published by WWA, it was said that if fossil fuels had not been burned to warm the world, high heat in the US/Mexico region and Southern Europe in July “would have been virtually impossible to occur.”

European heatwave: Horror map shows continent on fire

According to an attribution analysis conducted by Climate Central, a US-based climate think tank, more than 6.5 billion individuals experienced one or more days of heat during July 2023, which was rendered at least three times more likely by climate change. That represents almost 80% of the world’s population.

According to the survey, which looked at 4,700 cities across 200 nations, residents of 15 big cities with populations greater than 6 million were subjected to high monthly average temperatures, which are made more likely by global warming. Mexico City, Cairo, Kolkata, Lagos, Hong Kong, Miami, and Khartoum were among them.

According to Andrew Pershing, vice president for science at Climate Central, “the vast majority of humanity experienced July temperatures that were influenced by human-caused climate change.” The average person on the earth experienced 11 days during which carbon pollution increased the likelihood that the local temperature would rise by at least thrice. Almost nothing on Earth is immune to the effects of climate change.

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