Climate change makes extreme heat up to 10 times as likely in Europe

Climate change makes extreme heat up to 10 times as likely in Europe

Climatecentral.org has reported on a recent analysis of the heatwave last month. Record-breaking heat gripped most of Western Europe during June 2017, sending monthly mean temperatures about 3 degrees Celsius (4.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal (1981-2010). In France, the night of June 21 will go down as the hottest June night ever recorded for most of the country.

The World Weather Attribution team (including University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute researchers), in partnership with experts from other European countries, conducted an event attribution study to investigate whether and to what extent human-induced climate change played a role in the high June temperatures across different countries in Western Europe.

The team found that climate change made the intensity and frequency of such extreme heat at least twice as likely in Belgium, at least four times as likely in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and central England and at least 10 times as likely in Portugal and Spain.

Oxford researchers are currently building on their well-known weather@home methodology to develop the capacity to perform more rapid event assessment. Weather@home is a group of regional climate modelling experiments within climateprediction.net, a volunteer computing and climate modeling project based in the Environmental Change Institute, the Oxford e-Research Centre and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics.

Using weather@home, the team simulated two different large ensembles of June 2017 using the Met Office Hadley Centre regional climate model HadRM3P at 50km resolution over Europe. The first set of ensembles represents possible June weather under current climate conditions including human-caused climate change. The second set of ensembles represents possible June weather in a world as it might have been without man-made climate drivers.

The findings have been widely reported including in the BBC  and The Guardian, to whom Environmental Change Institute Deputy Director Dr Friederike Otto commented, “Heat can be deadly – especially for the very young and the elderly. This extreme event attribution analysis makes clear that European heatwaves have become more frequent, and in the South of Europe at least 10 times more frequent. It is critical that cities work with scientists and public health experts to develop heat action plans. Climate change is impacting communities right now and these plans save lives”.