Climate change has made the record Northwest heat wave 150 times more likely

Yes, blame the climate change.

Man-made global warming has fueled the heat wave that has probably killed hundreds of people last week in the US Pacific Northwest and Canada.

The massive build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere made the unprecedented weather event 150 times more likely, according to analysis by World Weather Attribution. the loosely affiliated team of global scientists concluded that the extreme heat wave would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, which has already warmed the planet by about 2.2 F (1.2 C).

Scientists have long resisted pinning a single weather event on climate change, sticking to the general point that it would make heat waves, droughts, fires and hurricanes more and more frequent and serious. But more satellite data records, increased computing power, and higher-resolution climate simulations have made researchers more confident that the claim, often within days, that global warming dramatically increases the risk of specific disasters. . (See 10 Revolutionary Technologies 2020: Attribution to Climate Change.)

Extreme temperatures of the past week all-time heat records demolished in the towns and villages of the region, cut off the power to tens of thousands of homes, and has sent more than 2,000 people to emergency rooms for heat-related illnesses in Washington and Oregon.

Authorities have so far reported more than 100 heat-related deaths in those states, according to matched media. In addition, there were almost 500 “sudden and unexpected deaths” in British Columbia, some 300 more than normal during the relevant five-day period.

The most likely scenario is that warmer global temperatures have simply exacerbated the consequences of the unusual atmospheric conditions that occurred last week, when a so-called thermal dome trapped hot air over a wide swath of the earth. region. If so, similar events could occur once or twice a decade if temperatures rise 3.6 ˚F (2 C), the researchers found.

The most troubling possibility, albeit the thinnest, is that greenhouse gas emissions have pushed the climate system past an unknown and little understood threshold, where global warming is now triggering larger increases in global warming. extreme temperatures than expected. This theory will require further research to be evaluated. But that would mean strong heat waves will exceed levels predicted by current climate models, the researchers said.

“You’re not supposed to break records of four or five degrees Celsius (seven to nine degrees Fahrenheit),” said Friederike Otto, co-head of World Weather Attribution and associate director of the University’s Environmental Change Institute. of Oxford, in a statement. . “This is such an exceptional event that we cannot rule out the possibility that we are experiencing extreme heat today that we only expected to reach higher levels of global warming.”

Another a heat wave is expected to push back triple-digit temperatures in parts of the northwest in the coming days.

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