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Climate change may be behind record-breaking heatwave

Northern Europe has been in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave that looks to linger for weeks. Sweden is seeing its hottest summer in a century. Scotland recorded its highest temperature ever in Motherwell, and records were shattered in Belfast in Northern Ireland as well.

Now, weather data indicates that climate change may have played a role in creating it.

“The summer of 2018 has been remarkable in northern Europe. A very persistent high-pressure anomaly over Scandinavia caused high temperature anomalies and drought there from May to (at least) July,” researchers from the World Weather Attribution consortium wrote on their website. “These reached  as far southwest as Ireland. Southern Europe was unusually wet, with damaging thunderstorms in France in the first half of June.”

The team of scientists looked at climate data collected from seven sites in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. The sites were chosen because they record weather information in real-time, and have digitized records going back several decades.

The researchers then analyzed the current and historic data to look at trends.

“We firstly analyze observed temperatures and estimate how rare the current heatwave is, measured as three-day maximum temperatures, and whether or not there is a trend toward increasing temperature,” they wrote.

They found that man-made climate change has raised the chances of northern Europe seeing a record-breaking heatwave, and this summer’s heat seems to be an example.

“We estimate that the probability to have such a heat or higher is generally more than two times higher today than if human activities had not altered climate,” the researchers wrote.

The team did note that this was only a preliminary study. Additional research to verify their conclusions and more climate modeling would be needed before they can extend their findings to other extreme heat events, such as a record-breaking heatwave in Japan that has killed dozens or record high temperatures in the Arctic.

But the findings do add to a growing body of work suggesting that climate change is real, and that human activity may play a role in it.

“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” Dr. Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford, a co-author of the study, told the Daily Mail. “What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace – in some cases, it already has.”

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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