The heat and record breaking temperatures are made possible by climate change.
On June 20, all Arctic heat records were shattered in the Russian city of Verkhoyansk when the thermometer tapped 38 degrees Celsius (!). The extreme heat followed a months-long period (which started as early as January) when temperatures in Siberia were generally more than 5 degrees Celsius higher than normal.
It is exceptional that the temperatures are so much higher for so long in a row. And it begs the question of whether we see climate change in action here. Probably, according to climatologist Xavier Fetweiss .
And a new study endorses that. Using computer simulations, researchers show that the continued heat in Siberia without the global warming we caused would have been unthinkable.
The researchers used a large collection of computer simulations for their analysis, thus simulating two situations. One in which the climate is as it is now: so about 1 degree Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times. And one in which the climate has not been influenced by people. The simulations reveal that the persistent heat that Siberia stowed between January and June in the latter scenario – in which humans had not warmed the Earth – would occur only once every 80,000 years. And with that, such a period of sustained heat in the area is actually impossible in a climate not warmed by greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers say.
Simulations of the current (warmed) climate turned out to increase the chance of a long period of persistent heat in Siberia about 600 times (!). The researchers point out that the persistent heat in Siberia is also quite unusual in the current climate; it is something that appears on the simulations less than once every 130 years. But, the scientists warn, if we don’t cut our emissions and warm the Earth further, we’ll see such warm spells more often. “This research shows once again what an impact climate change has on heat waves,” said researcher Friederike Otto. “Since heat waves are by far the deadliest extreme weather conditions in many parts of the world, we have to take them very seriously. If emissions continue to increase,
Researchers are afraid that the persistent heat in Siberia will also lead to more warming. For example, the heat has already led to enormous wildfires, which have released an estimated 56 million tons of CO2. To put that in perspective: that is more than the annual emissions of a country like Switzerland. The high temperatures also lead to the melting of permafrost, from which greenhouse gases are also released.
The study once again makes clear how urgent the climate change problem really is. “These results show that we are beginning to experience extreme events where otherwise we would have had almost no chance if we hadn’t left our mark on the climate system,” said researcher Sonia Seneviratne. “There is little time left for global warming to stabilize at a level that falls within the limits of the Paris climate agreement. In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a temperature where we still have an increased chance of such periods of extreme heat, we need to halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. ”