NEWS

Climate change made European heatwave up to 3°C hotter

Human-induced warming also made the hot spell up to 100 times more likely in some parts.

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Bathers swim in the Silbersee II lake on July 25, 2019 near Marl, Germany.

Beachgoers in Germany, which recorded its highest-ever temperatures in the July heatwave.Credit: Lukas Schulze/Bongarts/Getty

The extreme heatwave that caused record temperatures last week across Western Europe was made more likely — and severe — by human-induced climate change.

In France and the Netherlands, where temperatures rose above 40 °C, climate change made such a heat spell at least 10 times — and possibly 100 times — more likely to occur than a century or so ago. The findings come from a rapid analysis by scientists with the World Weather Attribution group that combined information from models and observations.

In the United Kingdom and Germany, climate change made last week’s event five to ten times more likely, the group found. And in all locations, observed temperatures were 1.5–3 °C hotter than in a scenario in which the climate was unaltered by human activity.

The group has analysed six European heat waves since 2010 — including the one that occurred in late June — and has found that each one has been made significantly more likely and intense because of climate change.

Meanwhile, the latest European heat wave has moved to Greenland, where it is causing unprecedented surface melting of the thick ice sheet that covers most of the island.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02384-z

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