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Recent Mediterranean floods directly linked to climate change

A recent revelation from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) has brought to light startling data concerning the impact of global warming on recent catastrophic rainfall and flooding in the Mediterranean.

According to their findings, the odds of experiencing the deluge that devastated parts of the Mediterranean were amplified up to 50 times in Libya and 10 times in Greece due to climate change.

The science behind the report

While the study utilized established methodologies, it’s vital to mention that it hasn’t undergone peer review yet. The tragic events, particularly the Mediterranean flooding, were not solely due to the heavy rainfall.

Regional variables such as deforestation, prolonged conflicts, construction on flood plains, and subpar dam maintenance compounded the disaster’s severity.

Dr. Friederike Otto, a renowned climate scientist from Imperial College London and one of the report’s architects, highlighted the Mediterranean’s vulnerability, labeling it as a “hotspot of climate-change-fuelled hazards.”

Emphasizing the gravity of the situation, she added that fortifying resilience against such extreme weather conditions is imperative for preserving lives in the coming years.

However, pinning down the direct influence of climate change on these Mediterranean flooding events proved more challenging than doing so for recent wildfires and heat waves.

The wrath of Storm Daniel

September bore witness to the fury of Storm Daniel, which pummeled parts of the eastern and central Mediterranean. The storm’s aftermath was especially tragic in Libya.

On September 10, two dams burst under the storm’s onslaught, leading to the inundation of the eastern city of Derna. Thousands tragically lost their lives as residential structures built on what is usually a dry riverbed gave way due to the weakened foundations from the swelling waters.

The study points out that the magnitude of the rainfall in Libya was unprecedented, possibly up to 50% greater than what might have been anticipated if human activity hadn’t altered the climate. Yet, researchers urge a careful approach, acknowledging the uncertainties inherent in these findings.

The political turmoil and the long-standing conflict in Libya further intensified the flooding’s destructive consequences. The WWA study pointed out that dams, which had been erected in the 1970s, suffered from neglect.

The lack of modern rainfall data during their construction possibly led to underestimating a storm of this magnitude. The catastrophe’s toll was exacerbated as the dams, holding vast quantities of water, broke during the night, leaving residents with minimal time to seek safety.

Maja Vahlberg of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, also a contributor to the report, pressed the urgent need for measures to “reduce exposure to flood risks.”

Other regions under the scanner

The repercussions of global warming weren’t limited to Libya. Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey also faced up to 40% more rainfall attributed to climate change.

Such heavy rainfall, once rare, might now be expected approximately every decade in these regions. Central Greece, which bore the brunt, is forecasted to experience such an event every 80-100 years.

Limitations and conclusions

The WWA report does tread with caution, acknowledging that “they cannot completely rule out the possibility that climate change has not influenced the likelihood and intensity of events like these.”

They cite the lack of extensive data from local weather stations and the limitations of climate models in predicting rare extremes over localized regions as constraints in their study. However, they stand firm in their conclusion that global warming played a significant role in the recent Mediterranean disaster.

As the evidence continues to mount, studies like these underscore the pressing need to address climate change and bolster preparations against its increasingly destructive repercussions.

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