Why the UK heatwave is so bad and how climate change will affect the future

Why the UK heatwave is so bad and how climate change will affect the future
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For two weeks, computer models teased the possibility that the UK could reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees) this week, a level unsurpassed since at least 1850 – and probably in more than 6,000 years. Meteorologists stared in disbelief at these model predictions and were skeptical that such predictions would come true.

Six days ago, the UK Met Office put the chance of reaching 40 degrees Celsius at just 40 degrees Celsius 10 percent.

But that seems unlikely Model forecasts performed correctly. London Heathrow was one of six locations in the UK on Tuesday exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, breaking the UK’s all-time temperature record.

This is the latest example of how human-caused climate change is driving temperatures to levels previously thought unfathomable – faster than many can imagine.

Britain experiences the hottest day on record

In 2020, the Met Office released forecasts suggesting the type of heat seen across the UK on Tuesday could be a reasonably routine occurrence by 2050. But seeing this in 2022 struck scientists as both premature and an ominous preview of what is to come.

“I didn’t expect to see that in my career,” said Stephen Belcher, the Met Office’s head of science and technology in an online video.

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

Another factor that startled the scientists: Britain’s temperature record was not only eclipsed, but surpassed by 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit). The previous mark was 38.7 degrees Celsius, set in Cambridge two summers ago.

“For meteorologists, exceeding records by 2 or 3 degrees is a staggering thought when historical records have only been broken by fractions of a degree.” said Simon Kinga meteorologist for the BBC.

At least that’s what the Met Office reported 34 locations in the country surpassed the previous national record.

The number of high-temperature records set in the UK on Tuesday, for both daily highs and overnight lows, and the extent to which they have been broken are reminiscent of last year’s Pacific Northwest heatwave.

This heat wave Setting records at high temperatures with massive margins in Seattle and Portland reaching 108 and 116 degrees. Lytton, a village in British Columbia, broke Canada’s previous heat record of 113 degrees for three consecutive days, peaking on June 29 with a shocking 121 degrees.

“Difficult to understand”: Experts react to a record temperature of 121 degrees in Canada

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution project found that climate change played a role made the Pacific Northwest heatwave at least 150 times more likely.

Meteorologists also marveled at just how far north temperatures have rocketed in this week’s European heatwave. London is further north than any other place in the Lower 48 States and is at one latitude north of Calgary. His 104 high was hotter than Houston and Miami.

Corinne Le Querea climate research professor at the University of East Anglia said the high temperatures in the UK shouldn’t be that shocking.

“We should not be surprised at the extreme temperatures we are living with 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 get more extreme in the future.”

However, other scientists said the scale of these heatwaves could force people to reassess what climate-charged weather events might entail.

“I think it’s likely that as a society we have grossly underestimated the risks and potential consequences of heat runaways in densely populated/temperate regions where extreme heat has historically been rare.” tweeted Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “And #climatechange up the ante.”

“Models underestimate, if at all, 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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