The authors of a new research review claim we no longer need “attribution studies” to know if a heatwave is caused by climate change.
“I think we can very confidently now say that every heatwave that is occurring today has been made more intense and more likely because of climate change,” said Dr Friederike Otto from Imperial College London.
She and her co-author Dr Luke Harrington from Victoria University of Wellington spoke to global media in a UK Science Media Centre briefing.
“Heatwaves are worsening and changing most quickly out of the different categories of extreme weather due to climate change,” Dr Harrington said.
“You’ll see a greater increase in the frequency of severe heatwaves with every additional degree of global warming, compared with the change in the frequency of other types of extreme weather.”
By contrast, the review found most severe droughts around the world aren’t attributable to climate change. Neither are most wildfires, however heatwaves are worsening their effects, and climate change is making megafires more likely in the western US.
“There are many parts of the world where we simply don’t have the historical observations of high enough quality or for a long enough period of time to be able to make an assessment of how that has been changing in the recent past,” Dr Harrington told Newstalk ZB.
However, heavy rainfall events have increased in most parts of the world due to climate change, with nowhere on Earth seeing a strong decline in their likelihood.