Heatwave paper co-authored by EOAS scientists made the N.Y. Times front page
Dr. Roland Stull, Dr. Rosie Howard, and Mr. Christopher Rodell from the Department of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences are among the many co-authors on a World Weather Attribution (WWA) paper that made the front page of The New York Times on July 8, 2021. The complete N.Y. Times article can be found here.
According to the team of leading climate researchers, the extreme heatwave that happened very recently in parts of the US and Canada would have been “virtually impossible" without the influence of human-caused climate change, which made the heatwave at least 150 times more likely to happen.
Although the record-breaking temperature observations made it difficult to quantify how rare the heatwave is, the researchers concluded that the event would have been virtually impossible without human influence. The heatwave was about 2°C hotter than it would have been if it had occurred at the beginning of the industrial revolution when global mean temperatures were 1.2°C cooler than today. Looking into the future, an event like this would occur a lot less rare – almost every 5 to 10 years, if we continue living in a world with 2°C of global warming, which could be reached as early as the 2040s at current emission levels.
The researchers found two alternative explanations for how climate change made the extraordinary heat more likely. The first is that the event remains a very unusual event, albeit the aggravation of climate change. The other possible explanation is that nonlinear interactions in the climate have substantially increased the probability of such extreme heat, much beyond the gradual increase in heat extremes that has been observed up to now. This is a possibility that needs to be explored in future studies.
The study provides a strong warning that the rapidly warming climate is leading us into an unknown world that has significant impacts on our life, and that adaptation plans should be designed to prepare societies for a very different future.
The heatwave paper has been cited in over 3,300 news media articles around the world till July 12. A list of the media articles with links can be found here.
See below for the WWA article and the full study.
World Weather Attribution article: Western North American extreme heat virtually impossible without human-caused climate change
Full study, PDF version: Rapid attribution analysis of the extraordinary heatwave on the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada June 2021