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Unprecedented Heatwave ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Humans, Study Finds

by : Hannah Smith on : 11 Jul 2021 16:04
Unprecedented Heatwave 'Virtually Impossible' Without Humans, Study FindsPA Images

The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly obvious, but there are still some who don’t seem to believe it.

So, to say it louder for the people in the back, scientists have said that the deadly heatwave that ripped through the Pacific Northwest last month would have been ‘virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change’.

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Extreme temperatures broken centuries-old records, killed hundreds of people and triggered numerous destructive wildfires last week, in what has been described as a ‘1-in-1,000 year event’.

Record setting temperatures 'virtually impossible' without climate change (PA Images)PA Images

According to analysis by scientists at World Weather Attribution, the kinds of temperatures seen in places like Oregon and British Columbia were made 150 times more likely by human-made climate change, due in large part to fossil-fuel emissions.

‘Our results provide a strong warning: our rapidly warming climate is bringing us into uncharted territory that has significant consequences for health, well-being, and livelihoods’ the WWA study concluded.

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Study authors used computer models to compare temperatures in 2021 with those in decades gone by, allowing them to assess the impact of changes to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, told CNN that the findings concerning last month’s heatwave and the failure to prepare for the extreme temperatures ‘raises serious questions [about] whether we really understand how climate change is making heatwaves hotter and more deadly’.

Wildfires caused by extreme temperatures in Pacific Northwest (PA Images)PA Images

Officials in Oregon said last week that the conditions seen in the state in June were in line with their ‘worst-case climate models’. A mass casualty event has been declared in the state, after more than 150 people were declared dead as a result of extreme heat-related illness.

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While the temperatures seen in the Pacific Northwest were extreme, they’re by far the only evidence of climate change in the region. As much as 93% of the west coast is currently living under the worst drought in decades, with conditions in the region ‘far worse this year when compared to all other years this century’, according to the US Drought Monitor.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: News, British Columbia, Climate Change, Environment, Heatwave, Now

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CNN
  1. CNN

    Historic Northwest heat wave 'virtually impossible' without human-caused climate crisis, study finds