Climate change: Europe's extreme rains made more likely by humans

Climate change: Europe's extreme rains made more likely by humans

The heavy rainfall behind deadly flooding in Europe in July was made more likely by climate change, scientists say.

The floods in Germany, Belgium and other parts killed at least 220 people as towns and villages were swamped.

Researchers say global heating made rainfall events like this up to nine times more likely in Western Europe.

Downpours in the region are 3-19% more intense because of human induced warming.

Weather forecasters and local authorities were taken aback by the dramatic and deadly floods that struck Germany, Belgium, and other parts of Europe in mid-July.

The rapidly moving waters carried away lives and wrecked homes, highways, and railway lines.

They did this in part because some of the hydrological monitoring systems, which would have given them more accurate information about the floods, were destroyed by the waters.

Rainfall data showed that strong downpours brought 90mm of rain in a single day to areas near the Ahr and Erft rivers in Germany, as well as the Meuse region of Belgium.
While the scientists discovered a trend of increasing rainfall in these small places, determining the influence of climate change was difficult due to the great amount of natural variability in the local rainfall patterns from year to year.
The researchers had to extend their analysis to include a larger section of Western Europe, including eastern France, western Germany, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and northern Switzerland, to truly see the impact of rising temperatures.
The scientists found that climate change caused by humans increased the intensity of rain that fell in a single day event in Summer by 3 to 19 percent % in this large region.Rising temperatures also increased the likelihood of downpours comparable to those that caused the floods by a factor of 1.2 to 9.
Most rapid attribution studies to date have been carried out on extreme heat events such as the recent US and Canadian wildfires. Working on extreme rainfall events is more of a challenge.
Dr Sjoukje Philip, a climate researcher with the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and a member of the WWA team, said, “We combined the knowledge of specialists from several fields of study to understand the influence of climate change on the terrible flooding last month, and to make clear what we can and cannot analyse in this event.”


 

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