Why the British heat wave is so bad and how climate change will affect the future

Why the British heat wave is so bad and how climate change will affect the future


For two weeks, computer models teased the possibility that Britain would reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees) this week, a level unmatched since at least 1850 – and probably in more than 6,000 years. Meteorologists stared in disbelief at these model forecasts, skeptical that such predictions would come true.

Six days ago, the UK Met Office set the odds of reaching 40 Celsius only 10 percent.

But the seemingly unlikely the model forecasts turned out to be correct. London Heathrow was among six locations in the UK to the top 40 Celsius on Tuesday, breaking Britain’s temperature record of all time.

This is the latest example of how man-made climate change is pushing temperatures to levels previously considered unimaginable – faster than many can imagine.

Britain sees the hottest day ever

In 2020, the Met Office issued estimates suggesting that the type of heat seen in the UK on Tuesday may occur somewhat routinely by 2050. But seeing it happen in 2022, researchers seemed both premature and an ominous preview of what is to come.

“I did not expect to see this in my career,” said Stephen Belcher, head of science and technology at the Met Office. in an online video.

Belcher warned that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, temperatures in the UK could eventually become so hot every three years.

Another factor that frightened researchers: Not only was Britain’s temperature record darkened, it was beaten by 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit). The previous mark was 38.7 Celsius, set in Cambridge two summers ago.

“For meteorologists, exceeding records by a margin of 2 or 3 degrees is a dizzying thought when historical records were broken only by fractions of a degree,” and Simon Kinga meteorologist for the BBC.

At least Met Office reported it 34 locations in the country surpassed the previous national record.

The number of high temperature records set in the UK on Tuesday, both for day and night lows, and the extent to which they were broken with memories of the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest last year.

That heat wave set high-temperature records with huge margins in Seattle and Portland, which hit 108 and 116 degrees. Lytton, a village in British Columbia, broke Canada’s previous heat record of 113 degrees in three days in a row, culminating in a shocking 121 degrees on June 29.

“Difficult to understand”: Experts respond to record 121 degrees in Canada

Researchers with the World Weather Attribution project found that climate change had made the Pacific Northwest heat wave at least 150 times as likely.

Meteorologists also wondered how far north the temperatures shot up in this week’s European heat wave. London is further north than anywhere in the lower 48 states and is located latitude just north of Calgary. The height of 104 was warmer than Houston and Miami.

Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate research at the University of East Anglia, said the high temperatures seen in the UK should not be so shocking.

“We should not be surprised by the extreme temperatures we are experiencing in the UK this week,” she said in an email. – The increase in extreme temperatures is a direct consequence of climate change caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Temperature records will continue to be more and more extreme in the future. “

But other researchers said the magnitude of these heat waves could force people to reconsider what weather events overloaded by climate change could bring.

“I think it is likely that we as a society have underestimated the risks and potential consequences of extreme heat events in highly populated / temperate areas where extreme heat has historically been rare,” tweeted Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “And #Climate changes increases the effort. “

“Models, if anything, underestimate the potential for future increases in various types of extremes [summer weather] events, ” Michael Mann, a professor at Penn State, told the Guardian.

Kasha Patel contributed to this report.

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