There is a growing body of research directly linking individual extreme weather events and wildfires to anthropogenic climate change. According to one study, more than 70 percent of all studied extreme weather events were made more likely due to climate change. As reported by Change Oracle, The World Weather Attribution group (WWA) concluded that the climate crisis has made South Asia heat waves 30 times more likely and the UK heatwaves 10 times more likely WWA concluded that heat in the Pacific Northwest in 2021, was “virtually impossible without human causes climate change”. WWA also explained that anthropogenic climate change has “altered the likelihood and intensity” of heat waves in the US Southwest, the Mediterranean, China, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
WWA found the April heatwave in Spain, Portugal, and northwest Africa to be “at least 100 times more likely” because of the climate crisis., adding the observed temperatures are “statistically impossible” in the absence of anthropogenic warming. In May WWA found that extreme heat in Spain and Portugal this spring had a 1-in-400 chance of occurring in the absence of anthropogenic climate change. As reported by the BBC, climate change makes June heat more than twice as likely. Another WWA study released in July concluded that US and European heatwaves are “virtually impossible” without anthropogenic climate change. They found the extreme heat in North America, Europe, and China in July 2023 was made much more likely by climate change. They also said the UK reaching highs of 40C in July 2022 would have been “extremely unlikely” without climate change. According to a study by Climate Central, anthropogenic global warming made July hotter for four out of five people on Earth. In the US at least 22 U.S. cities had at least 20 days when climate change tripled the likelihood of extra heat, this includes cities like Miami, Houston, Phoenix, Tampa, Las Vegas, and Austin.
Attribution science and storms
Global warming is making the world hotter, it is also making tropical storms more intense. Hot oceans lock in high-pressure systems driving heat waves around the world fueling typhoons, cyclones, and hurricanes. The record-breaking ocean heat this year has fueled numerous floods and storms in the Northern Hemisphere including Hurricane Hilary.
In 2014, attribution science linked climate change to the UK’s storms, in 2016 attribution science linked Hurricane Matthew to climate change and in 2018 attribution science linked Hurricane Florence to climate change. In 2020, climate change was linked to the record-breaking Atlantic storm season. The World Weather Attribution (WWA) concluded that heat in the Pacific Northwest in 2021, was “virtually impossible without human causes climate change”. According to CarbonBrief.org. since 2011 seven out of 10 extreme weather events were made more likely or more severe due to global warming.
Attribution science and wildfires
Climate change is also being linked to wildfires. Heat dries out soils and vegetation creating fuel for wildfires. As the world warms, we are seeing unmistakable evidence that wildfires are bigger, last longer, occur more often, and burn more land. Wildfires killed over a hundred people and destroyed the entire town of Lahaina in Maui. The US fire season is now two months longer than it was in the 1970s and 1980s and, Canada’s worst-ever wildfire season dramatically illustrates a global trend. As of August 27, there were 1042 active fires burning in Canada and a total of 5936 fires in 2023. At least 15.3 million hectares (153,000 sq km, or 59,000 square miles) have burned in Canada this year which is ten times the amount of land that burned in 2022. To put this size of the burn into context, that is a land mass bigger than Michigan and more than twice the previous Canadian record.
As reported by the Washington Post, from 1983 to 1992, the median fire season in Canada burned less than 1 million hectares, it doubled between 1993 and 2002 and almost doubled again in the period from 2013-2022. In 2023 fires raged all across the country including the historically less fire-prone province of Quebec. According to a new WWA analysis, climate change made the cumulative severity of Québec’s 2023 fire season 50 percent more intense. The study also indicates that seasons of this severity are now seven times more likely in Quebec.
Attribution science is drawing clear links between climate change, extreme weather, and wildfires. It also underscores the lethal ramifications of climate change. This is a point made even more poignant by the fact that this is the hottest summer in what is likely to be the hottest year in recorded history– at least until next year.