Climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, Dr Nikos Christidis, has told the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared that “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century. Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK. The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100.”
According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the frequency of certain types of weather and climate extremes is increasing due to climate change and several attribution studies have shown that it has made many single recent events more intense. Although exact connections remain open to scientific discussion, there is growing evidence that some aspects of physical atmospheric dynamics related to human-induced Arctic warming, can at times enhance conditions associated with persistent disturbances in the polar jet stream, giving prolonged northern hemisphere summer periods of wet, dry or hot weather.
Lorenzo Labrador, Scientific Officer at WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch Programme said “It is worth pointing that high temperatures is not the only adverse consequence of heat waves. The stable and stagnant atmosphere acts as a lid to trap atmospheric pollutants, including particulate matter, increasing their concentrations closer to the surface. This results in a degradation of air quality and adverse health effects, particularly to vulnerable people. Likewise, the abundant sunshine, high concentrations of certain atmospheric pollutants and stable atmosphere is conducive to episodes of ozone formation near the surface, which has detrimental effects on people and plants.”
And it is not just the UK that is suffering. Extreme heat has spread over Portugal, Spain and France. In Portugal, temperatures have reached highs up to around 46 degrees Celsius. Red warnings were in effect for much of Portugal as hot conditions increase the risk of wildfires.
Wildfires have torn through France, as well as other European countries including Portugal and Spain, and more than 13,000 hectares of land were on fire in the Gironde region.
Meteofrance listed 15 of France’s 96 departments on “red” alert and 51on “orange” alert, with residents of those areas urged to be vigilant. The heatwave in western France temperatures climbed above 40 degrees Celsius.
In neighboring Spain, firefighters battled a series of blazes on Saturday after days of unusually high temperatures that reached up to 45.7 C.
A recent modelling study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, concluded that the expansion of a high-pressure system over the Atlantic — the Azores High — is leading to the driest conditions on the Iberian Peninsula in the last thousand years.