Climate Change Fingerprints Were All Over Europe’s Latest Heat Wave, Study Finds

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Tourists refresh themselves in a pond at the Louvre Museum in Paris on June 26, 2019. - Meteorologists blamed a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the heatwave early in the European summer, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in France, Spain and Greece on June 27 and 28. (Photo by Dominique FAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

The extreme heat wave that gripped Europe in late June and sent temperatures soaring to 114 degrees Fahrenheit was made at least five times more likely by global warming, scientists with the World Weather Attribution group said Tuesday.

It was a quick and unambiguous finding, a judgment that in past times would have been harder to declare without heavy hedging.

The week of heat threatened vulnerable older people, damaged roads and railroad tracks and forced a rescheduling of national school exams in France. The Swiss meteorological service called it one of the most intense heat waves in that country’s history and said the heat had a clear climate change signal.

“The normally hottest part of the summer is yet to come,” World Weather Attribution’s Geert Jan van Oldenborgh warned on Twitter.

The World Weather Attribution scientists zoomed in on France while the heat wave was still being felt to assess the impact of global warming.

Using climate models and historical temperature records, they compared heat waves with and without the effects of human-caused greenhouse gases. They calculated that global warming had made the extreme June heat event at least five times more likely—and said the probability was likely even higher.

“Without considering climate model results, the observed temperature record suggests that a heat wave like the one in June is now at least 10 times more likely than in 1901, and possibly 100 times or more, and that maximum heat wave temperatures are about 4 degrees Celsius [about 7°F] warmer now than in 1901,” said co-author Robert Vautard, a climate researcher at the Laborataire des Sciences du Climat in France.

Map: Europe's June 2019 Extreme Heat Wave

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