Climate change has intensified the recent heat wave in Western Europe, according to a study. Without man-made global warming, July would have been cooler between one and a half and three degrees Celsius, according to an international research team from Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland (original study results). It was "almost certain" that the heatwave in Europe in the summer of 2019 would not have existed without climate change, said Martha Vogel from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
In Germany and France new heat records were reported in July with 42.6 degrees Celsius each, as well as 41.8 degrees in Belgium and 40.4 degrees in the Netherlands. The heatwaves in June and July caused disruption to rail traffic in several countries, causing drought in the fields and increasing the risk of forest fires.
Europe has experienced seven exceptionally intense heat waves over the past 15 years. The weather records coincide with measurements of global warming: The four hottest years since records began were the past four years.
Frequency of heat waves increases
The authors of the study called such record temperatures an "extremely rare" event that would otherwise only occur about every 1000 years. In Germany and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the most recent heat wave without climate change would be possible every 50 to 100 years. At the moment, however, it has to be reckoned with every 10 years or so.
The research team of the World Weather Attribution Project (WWA) has several scientific institutes working together, including the German Weather Service (DWD). For example, they calculate how much more likely extreme weather events will be as a result of climate change, and how much man-made climate change will have on a given event. For their calculations, the scientists used the three warmest consecutive days in several European countries.
The heat wave has meanwhile moved further west from Western Europe, causing ice melt in Greenland and the Arctic. In Siberia and the Far East of Russia, forest fires broke out due to the hot and dry weather, covering an area of around 31,000 square kilometers by Friday - such as the territory of Belgium. The head of the Russian Meteorological Institute, Maxim Yakovenko, blamed climate change for the devastating forest fires in northern Russia.