Droughts that stretched across three continents this summer — drying out much of Europe, the United States and China — were made 20 times more likely by climate change, according to a new study.
Drought dried up major rivers, destroyed crops, caused wildfires, endangered aquatic species and led to water restrictions in Europe. It hit places already plagued by dehydration in the US, like the westbut also places where drought is rarer, like the northeast. China also just had its driest summer in 60 yearsleaving the famous Yangtze River at half its normal width.
Researchers at World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists from around the world who study the link between extreme weather and climate change, say this type of drought would only occur once every 400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, if man-made climate change were not made. would take place. Now they expect these conditions to repeat every 20 years, given the extent to which the climate has warmed.
Ecological disasters such as the widespread drought and then massive floods in Pakistan, are the “fingerprints of climate change,” said Martin van Aalst, a climate scientist at Columbia University and co-author of the study.
“The consequences are very clear for people and are hitting hard,” he said, “not only in poor countries, such as the flooding Pakistan….but also in some of the richest parts of the world, such as West-Central Europe.” .”
To find out the influence of climate change on drying in the Northern Hemisphere, scientists analyzed weather data, computer simulations and soil moisture in the regions excluding tropical areas. They found that climate change has made dry soil 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 climate scientists have found the the climate is getting warmer, and the study authors were responsible for that.
With another 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming, this kind of drought will occur once every 10 years in western-central Europe and every year in the northern hemisphere, said Dominik Schumacher, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland.
“We see this amplifying and cascading effect across sectors and regions,” said Van Aalst. “One way to mitigate those effects (is) to reduce emissions.”
Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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