The drought that spanned three continents this summer – drying up large parts of Europe, the United States and China – has been made 20 times more likely by climate change, according to a new study.
The drought has dried up major rivers, destroyed crops, sparked forest fires, threatened aquatic species and led to water restrictions in Europe. It hit already drought-ridden places in the United States, like the West, but also places where drought is rarer, like the Northeast. China has also just had its driest summer in 60 years, leaving its famous Yangtze River half its normal width.
Researchers from World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists around the world who study the link between extreme weather and climate change, say this type of drought only occurs once every 400 years in the Northern Hemisphere. if not for human-induced climate change. Now they expect these conditions to repeat themselves every 20 years, given global warming.
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Ecological disasters like widespread drought and then massive flooding in Pakistan are the “fingerprints of climate change”, said Maarten van Aalst, a Columbia University climatologist and co-author of the study.
“The impacts are very clear to people and are hitting hard,” he said, “not just in poor countries, like flooded Pakistan… but also in some of the richer parts of the world, like Pakistan. ‘Western Central Europe’.
To understand the influence of climate change on drying in the northern hemisphere, scientists analyzed meteorological data, computer simulations and soil moisture in all regions, excluding the tropics. They found that climate change has made dry ground conditions much more likely in recent months.
This analysis was done using the warming the climate has already experienced so far, 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit), but climatologists warned that the climate would get warmer, and the authors of the study took this into account.
With an additional warming of 0.8 degrees Celsius, this type of drought will occur once every 10 years in western central Europe and every year throughout the northern hemisphere, said Dominik Schumacher, a climatologist at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.
“We see these cumulative and cascading effects across all sectors and across all regions,” van Aalst said. “One way to reduce these impacts (is) to reduce emissions.”