Climate change made UK heatwave 10 times more likely, research shows

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Human-caused climate change made the UK’s recent record-breaking heatwave at least 10 times more likely, scientists are reported to have said.

Researchers were alarmed to find that temperatures during the heatwave – when the mercury rose beyond 40C in some parts of the UK – outpaced those predicted by most climate models.

A temperature of 40.3C was recorded in Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Tuesday July 19, smashing the previous record of 38.7C set in 2019.

Local records were broken in 46 stations across the country. Minimum temperatures were also extremely high with 25.8C provisionally being recorded in Kenley in Surrey, breaking the previous record from 1990 by 1.9C.

Analysts from World Weather Attribution are warning that the unprecedented extreme heat across western Europe shows that temperatures are increasing at a faster rate than anticipated.

They found that while models estimate greenhouse gas emissions elevated temperatures during the heatwave by 2C, historical weather records indicate that they would have been 4C cooler in a world that had been unaffected by human activities, The Guardian reported.

The sober findings are forcing climate experts to confront the possibility that the effects of global warming will be more severe than they originally thought.

Friederike Otto, a senior climate lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said: “In Europe and other parts of the world we are seeing more and more record-breaking heatwaves causing extreme temperatures that have become hotter faster than in most climate models.

“It’s a worrying finding that suggests that if carbon emissions are not rapidly cut, the consequences of climate change on extreme heat in Europe, which already is extremely deadly, could be even worse than we previously thought.”

Simulations suggest a 1% chance of such temperatures occurring again next year. But weather records indicate that this could be an underestimation because similar heatwaves in Europe have taken place more regularly and been hotter than climate models forecast.

Climate scientists are pleading for carbon emissions to be reduced urgently in order to curb the deadly effects of extreme heat which has killed thousands of people across Europe, including hundreds of deaths in the UK attributed to the most recent heatwave.