U.S., European heat waves ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, new study finds

Recent heatwaves in the U.S., Europe, and China would be “virtually impossible” without the influence of climate change, according to a new study by international researchers.

Heatwave context: This summer, soaring temperatures have imposed a punishing heatwave on the Northern Hemisphere.
* Over 2,000 high-temperature records have been broken in the U.S. within the past 30 days.
* Southern Europe and China have experienced record-setting heatwaves, with Sicily hitting 117°F on Monday, a new all-time high, and a northwest Chinese town recording the country’s hottest temperature in history.

Climate change role: The study’s researchers maintain human-caused climate change is the primary cause of these severe heatwaves.
* While natural weather patterns like El Niño may contribute to some of the heat, the researchers assert that the burning of fossil fuels is the main factor exacerbating the heatwaves.
* Global temperatures have increased nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the start of the Industrial Revolution, marked by the burning of fossil fuels.

Study insights: The study explores the connection between climate change and current heatwaves, and its findings point to greenhouse gas emissions as a significant contributor.
* The research, conducted by the World Weather Attribution team, utilized peer-reviewed computer model simulations to assess weather data across the three continents and determine the effect of current warming compared to past climates.
* Greenhouse gas emissions have been implicated in not only increasing the frequency of extreme heatwaves but also in making them hotter than they would be otherwise by several degrees Fahrenheit.

Health risks: The World Health Organization warns that even a minor rise in temperatures can increase illness and death.
* Heatwaves can result in severe dehydration, heat exhaustion, and enhanced risks of heart attack or stroke.
* These risks are more pronounced in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, where temperatures are generally hotter than in white neighborhoods.

Notable quotes: “Dangerous climate change is here now,” stated Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studying climate change’s influence on extreme weather. Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist at Climate Central, agreed with the research’s findings, commenting that the link between extreme heat and climate change is “not surprising.”

View original article on NPR

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