According to a group of leading climate scientists, the record-breaking heatwave that hit the western United States and Canada at the end of June would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without human-caused climate change. According to the World Weather Attribution group, global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions increased the likelihood of a heatwave by at least 150 times.
Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest of both countries broke records by several degrees, including a Canadian record of 49.6 degrees Celsius in the village of Lytton, which later turned in to wildfire, destroying a large area of forest. During a press conference to discuss the findings, Friederike Otto, a climatologist at the University of Oxford, said, ‘There’s absolutely no doubt that climate change played a key role here.’
To see if climate change played a role, the researchers looked at historical data and computer simulations to compare the current climate with the climate of the past, which has warmed by about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. They discovered that the temperatures observed were far outside the range of previously observed temperatures. However, given today’s climate, the event is estimated to occur once every thousand years.
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These heat waves would occur every five to ten years and would be around one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter if the planet became two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer in the future, which could happen as soon as the 2040s.