The Punch

‘Climate change caused US, Canada’s extreme heat waves’


tHe Pacific Northwest heat wave that shattered temperatur­e records in the western United States and Canada in late June would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change, according to a report from the World Weather Attributio­n group, a worldwide group of climate scientists.

Scientists from the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherland­s, France, germany and Switzerlan­d collaborat­ed to assess to what extent humaninduc­ed climate change made this heat wave hotter and more likely to occur.

the report said, “the heat wave considered in this study is linked to a slow-moving strong high pressure system, sometimes called Omega-blocking or ‘heat dome,’ which brings descending and thus warm and dry air, as well clear skies, further heating the near-surface air.

“the exceptiona­lly high temperatur­es led to spikes in sudden deaths, and sharp increases in hospital visits for heat-related illnesses and emergency calls.

“Heatwaves are one of the deadliest natural hazards. Available mortality estimates of at least several hundred additional deaths are almost certainly an underestim­ate. the full extent of the impact of this exceptiona­l heat on population health will not be known for several months.”

The researcher­s’ findings presented two likely scenarios that caused the extreme jump in peak temperatur­es.

First is a very low probabilit­y event, even in the current climate which already includes about 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

Second are the nonlinear interactio­ns in climate that have increased the probabilit­y of such extreme heat, much beyond the gradual increase in heat extremes that has been observed up to now.

the researcher­s warned, “We need to investigat­e the second possibilit­y further, although we note the climate models do not show it. this event would have been at least 150 times rarer without human-induced climate change.”

extreme weather both heat waves and deep freezes, affects millions of people and entire communitie­s who are in most cases wholly unprepared to survive such recurring events.

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