Nearly impossible without global warming of human origin, this year’s freak Siberian heat wave is producing climate change’s most flagrant footprint of extreme weather, a study said.
International scientists on Wednesday released a study that found the greenhouse effect multiplied the chance of the region’s prolonged heat by at least 600 times, and maybe tens of thousands of times.
In the study, which has not yet undergone peer review, the team looked at Siberia from January to last month, including a day that hit 38°C, a new Arctic record.
Scientists from the UK, Russia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands used 70 climate models running thousands of complex simulations comparing current conditions to a world without warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas.
They found that without climate change the type of prolonged heat that hit Siberia would happen once in 80,000 years, “effectively impossible without human influence,” said study lead author Andrew Ciavarella, a scientist at the UK Met Office.
World Weather Attribution’s past work has found some weather extremes were not triggered by climate change, but this year’s Siberian heat wave stood out among the many studied, said attribution team colead Friederike Otto, acting director of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.
“Definitely from everything we have done it’s the strongest signal that we have seen,” Otto said.
The team looked at both the average temperature in Siberia over the first six months of the year when temperatures averaged 5°C above normal and the heat spike of 38°C which occurred in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk last month.
Both just really could not happen in a world without the additional heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels, Ciavarella said.
The scientists said that the heat added to problems with widespread wildfires, pest outbreaks and the thawing of permafrost.
Thawing permafrost also has the potential to release huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped under the frozen ground, scientists said.
“This event is really worrying,” said study coauthor Olga Zolina, a climate scientist at the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow.
At least 10 outside scientists said the study was scientifically sound, using established techniques.
“They have, in an impressively short time, marshaled a lot of different data sets together, which really give credence to their results,” said Danish Meteorological Institute climate scientist Ruth Mottram, who was not part of the research.
These types of studies allow people and world leaders to “connect the dots” between extreme weather events and climate change, and prepare for them, said French climate scientist Valerie Masson-Delmotte, who also was not part of the research.
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