Climate Change Altered Intensity Of Extreme July Heat In US, Europe

Human-induced climate change contributed to the intensity of the extreme July heat across three continents in the Northern Hemisphere, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.

Unless the world rapidly stops burning fossil fuels, these events will become even more common and the world will experience heatwaves that are even hotter and longer-lasting, the World Weather Attribution initiative warned in its report.

Following a record hot June, large areas of the United States, Mexico, Southern Europe and China experienced extreme heat this month, breaking many local high temperature records.

As temperatures are still blazing in these three regions, a group of international scientists from the World Weather Attribution initiative collaborated to assess to what extent human-induced climate change altered the likelihood and intensity of the extreme July heat.

North America, Europe and China have experienced heatwaves increasingly frequently over the last years as a result of warming caused by human activities. Hence an event like the current heat waves are expected to occur approximately once every 15 years in the US/Mexico region, once every 10 years in Southern Europe, and once in 5 years for China, the study found.

“Without human induced climate change these heat events would however have been extremely rare. In China it would have been about a 1 in 250 year event while maximum heat like in July 2023 would have been virtually impossible to occur in the US/Mexico region and Southern Europe if humans had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels,” the report says.

The study found that the heatwaves defined above are 2.5°C warmer in Southern Europe, 2°C warmer in North America and about 1°C in China in today’s climate than they would have been if it was not for human-induced climate change.

The group of scientists called for an urgent need for “an accelerated roll-out of heat action plans in light of increasing vulnerability driven by the intersecting trends of climate change, population ageing, and urbanisation”.

July 2023 saw extreme heatwaves in several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including the Southwest of the U.S. and Mexico, Southern Europe and China. Temperatures exceeded 50C on July 16 in Death Valley in the U.S. as well as in Northwest China. Records were also reached in many other weather stations in China and the all-China heat record was broken in Sanbao on the same day.

In Europe, the hottest ever day in Catalunya was recorded and highest-ever records of daily minimum temperature were broken in other parts of Spain.

In the U.S., parts of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico tied their all time high. Parts of Arizona and Cayman Islands recorded their highest ever night time temperatures. Phoenix had its record for longest time without falling below 90F/32.2C.

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