Floods in Europe show need to cut emissions and adapt – NBC Chicago
As the European Union announced plans to spend billions of euros to contain climate change, massive clouds gathered over Germany and neighboring countries to trigger an unprecedented storm that left death and destruction in its wake.
Despite numerous warnings, politicians and meteorologists were shocked by the ferocity of the precipitation which caused flash floods that killed more than 150 people this week in the lush hills of Western Europe.
Climatologists say the link between extreme weather and global warming is undeniable, and the urgency to do something about climate change is undeniable.
Scientists cannot yet say for sure whether climate change caused the flooding, but they insist that it certainly worsens the extreme weather conditions that have arisen from the western United States and Canada to the Siberia to the Rhine region in Europe.
“There is a clear link between extreme precipitation and climate change,” Wim Thiery, professor at the University of Brussels, said on Friday.
Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of ocean physics at the University of Potsdam, referring to recent heat records set in the United States and Canada, said that “some are so extreme that they would be practically impossible without global warming” .
Taken together, said Sir David King, Chairman of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, “they are victims of the climate crisis: we will only see these extreme weather events become more frequent.”
For Diederik Samsom, the European Commission chief of staff behind this week’s massive proposals to spend billions and force the industry to undertake drastic reforms to help cut gas emissions by 55% in the world. Origin of global warming this decade, this week’s disaster was a warning.
“People are being taken to Germany… as well as to Belgium and the Netherlands as well. We are experiencing climate change, “he said on a conference call from the European Policy Center think tank.” A few years ago you had to point to a point in the future or very far from the planet to talk about climate change. It’s happening now – here.
And climatologists point to two specific things that contributed to this week’s calamity.
First, with every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, the air can absorb 7% more moisture. It can hold water longer, leading to drought, but it also leads to an increase in dense and massive precipitation once it releases it.
Another determining factor is the tendency for storms to hover over a location for much longer than usual, thus dumping increasing amounts of rain over a smaller part of the world. Scientists say warming is also a contributing factor. A jet stream of strong winds six miles (nearly 10 kilometers) high helps determine the weather in Europe and is fueled by temperature differences between the tropics and the Arctic.
Yet as Europe warms – Scandinavia is currently experiencing an unusual heat wave – the jet stream weakens, causing its winding course to stop, sometimes for days, Thiery said.
He said such a phenomenon was also visible in Canada, where it helped cause a “heat dome” in which temperatures reached 50 ° C (122 ° F).
“And that causes the heavy rains that we have seen in Western Europe,” he said.
Even though greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced over the next few decades, the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere means that extreme weather will become more likely. .
Experts say such phenomena will hit areas that are not particularly prepared for it.
“We need to make our built environment – buildings, outdoor spaces, cities – more resilient to climate change,” said Lamia Messari-Becker, professor of engineering at the University of Siegen.
Those who do not adapt risk more death and property damage, said Ernst Rauch, climate scientist and chief geoscientist at reinsurance giant Munich Re.
“The events of today and about yesterday give us a clue that we need to do better to be ready for these types of events,” he said. “The events themselves are not exactly unexpected, but the order of magnitude probably surprised some.”
Frank Jordans in Berlin and David Keyton in Paris contributed to this report.