The science Says record heat, fires exacerbated by climate change

Heat waves are the establishment of the all-time temperature records around the world, again. Europe suffered the fatal fire in more than a century, and one of nearly 90 major fire in the AMERICAN West burned dozens of homes and forced the evacuation of at least 37,000 people in the vicinity of Redding, California. Flood-inducing downpours have pounded the AMERICAN East this week.

It’s all part of the summer, but is aggravated by human-caused climate change, say scientists.

“Strangeness in abundance,” said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis.

Japan hit 106 degrees Monday, the warmest temperature ever. Records fell in parts of Massachusetts, Maine, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and Texas. And then there is crazy heat in Europe, where normally chill Norway, Sweden and Finland all saw temperatures they have never been seen before on a different date, pushing past 90 degrees. So far this month, at least 118 of these all-time heat records were set or tied across the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The explanation should sound as familiar as the crash of broken records.

“We have very strong evidence that the warming of the earth has been a thumb on the scales, increases the chances of extremes such as severe heat and heavy rainfall,” Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said. “We find that the warming of the earth increased the odds of record-setting hot events in more than 80 percent of the planet, and increases the odds of record-setting wet events approximately half of the planet.”

Climate change is making the world warmer, because the build-up of heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil and other human activities. And experts say the jet stream that dictates the weather in the Northern Hemisphere — the weather is behaving strangely.

“An unusually sharp kinked jet stream is stuck in place for weeks now,” said Jeff Masters, director of the private Weather Underground. He says that it allows the heat to remain in place from about three areas where the kinks are: Europe, Japan, and the west of the United States.

The same jet stream pattern caused in 2003 the European heat wave of 2010 Russian heat wave and forest fires, 2011 Texas and Oklahoma drought and the 2016 Canadian forest fires, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said, pointing to past research by him and others. He said in an e-mail that these extremes are becoming more frequent because of human-caused climate change and particularly the enhanced warming in the Arctic.”

Climate scientists have long said that they can’t directly link a single weather conditions, such as a heat wave to human-caused climate change, without extensive study. In the past ten years, they have used observations, statistics and computer simulations to calculate if global warming increases the odds of the events.

A study of European scientists Friday, found that the continuing European heat wave is twice as likely because of human-caused global warming, although these conclusions are not yet confirmed by external scientists. The World Weather Attribution team said they compared the three-day heat measurements and the forecasts for the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland, with historical data going back to the early 1900’s.

“The world is becoming warmer and thus heat waves like this are becoming more common,” said Jan Otto, a member of the team and the deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford.

Erich Fischer, an expert on extreme weather conditions at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who was not part of the analysis, said that the authors used time-tested methods to their conclusions.

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said the link between climate change and fires is not as strong as it is with heat waves, but it is becoming increasingly clear.

A devastating fire in Greece — with at least 83 accidents — is the most deadly fire in Europe since 1900, according to the International Disaster Database run by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels, Belgium.

In the United States on Friday there were 89 active large fires, consuming more than 900,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. So far this year, fires burned 4.15 million hectares, which is almost 14 percent higher than the average over the past 10 years.

The first major science course to connect the greenhouse to a stronger and longer heat waves in 2004. It was entitled “more intense, More frequent and prolonged heat waves in the 21st century.” Study author Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said Friday that it “reads like a prediction of what has happened and will continue to happen as long as average temperatures continue to rise with ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels. It is no mystery.”


Borenstein reported from Washington, Jordans from Berlin.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears . His work can be found here .


The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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