The months of June and July always bring hot weather, but in 2018, conditions have been especially bad, and people all over the world are taking notice. Heat waves have been spreading across North America, Europe and much of the world—and people are searching near and far for an explanation.
Turns out, the most obvious explanation is probably the best.
According to The Guardian, scientists have concluded that this year’s heat waves were made twice as likely by climate change. Focusing primarily on Northern Europe, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford and World Weather Attribution studied probabilistic models that determine the likelihood of extreme temperatures in various regions and noticed that as humans’ contributions to climate change have increased, the risk of heat waves has gone up accordingly.
“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable,” Oxford’s Friederike Otto said. “The world is becoming warmer, and so heat waves like this are becoming more common. What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace, and in some cases, it already has.”
It’s not just in Europe that the risk of extreme heat has gone up. In New South Wales, Australia, the researchers found, global warming made the 2016-17 heat waves 50 times more likely. Similarly, the 2017 “Lucifer” heat wave in the Mediterranean region was 10 times more likely. In the United States, the severity of the rains brought by Hurricane Harvey was influenced by climate change.
If people don’t take concrete action to curb climate change, this problem is going to get worse before it gets better. The researchers speculated that the number and intensity of heat waves is still increasing, and extreme events are likely to strike every other year by the 2040s.
“There is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible,” Otto cautioned.