Research published by the climatological group World Weather Attribution and the European Climate Foundation (ECF) has also found that rainfall in the region is now three to 19 percent heavier due to man-made warming. According to the ECF, the findings support the conclusions of a comprehensive report published this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the UN. He stated that there is now indisputable evidence that humans are warming the planet’s climate and that the changes caused in this way are the main driver of change in weather extremes. The new report shows that with rising temperatures, Western and Central Europe will be exposed to increasing amounts of extreme rainfall and flooding.
Extremes can strike anywhere
Extreme rainfall hit parts of Western Europe from 12 to 15 July. More than 90 mm of rain fell around the Ahr and Erft rivers during the day, which was much more than in previous records. Subsequent floods killed at least 220 people in Germany and Belgium. “This year’s events show once again that extremes that break the hitherto observed records, exacerbated by climate change, can strike anywhere and cause huge damage and casualties. Local and national authorities in Western Europe need to be aware of the increased risks of extreme rainfall in order to better prepared for potential future events, ” said Frank Kreienkamp, head of the Potsdam Climate Office.
Researchers analyzed weather records and computer simulations to calculate the impact of climate change on heavy rainfall, which led to flooding. They compared the past to today’s climate, when global warming increased the average temperature by 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to the end of the 19th century. The study focused on the extreme rains caused by floods in two particularly hard-hit areas in Germany, where an average of 93 mm of water fell in two days. The authors analyzed the intensity of precipitation rather than river levels, partly because a large body of water destroyed some measuring stations.
Source: SITA / AP / DPA / Andr ‘M’rz
Experts have revealed a large degree of variability between years in these local precipitation patterns. To assess the impact of climate change, they looked at data from the wider region. They examined how likely it is that similar extreme rainfall could occur anywhere in the wider region of Western Europe, including eastern France, western Germany, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and northern Switzerland, and how this affects rising global temperatures. Researchers in the wider region have found that man-made climate change has increased the amount of rainfall that has fallen in one day by three to 19 percent. Climate change has also increased 1.2 to nine times the likelihood of severe rainfall events similar to those caused by recent floods. With today’s climate, similar events can be expected in any part of Western Europe about once every 400 years. As greenhouse gases increase and temperatures continue to rise, such heavy rains will become more frequent.
Source: SITA / Boris Roessler / dpa via AP
The study involved 39 scientists from World Weather Attribution, including researchers from universities and meteorological and hydrological offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the USA and Britain.