The drought that hit Europe this summer – and more generally the entire Northern Hemisphere – doesn’t owe much to chance. According to a new study published on Wednesday 5 October by a group of specialized scientists, the World Weather Attribution (in English), global warming has made it 3 to 20 times more likely depending on the region. Because by consuming fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas for travel, housing or food, humans are warming our planet’s atmosphere and changing the characteristics of our climate.
To measure this link, the scientists used observational data and climate models. They also distinguished the superficial dryness of the soil (from 0 to 7 cm) and the roots (from 0 to 100 cm). “This is the first attribution study on soil moisture, it’s groundbreaking”explains climatologist Robert Vautard, one of the study’s authors. In Europe, drought was made 3-4 times more likely for the soil surface and 5-6 times for the roots.
Across the northern hemisphere, the figures increase to 20 times more likely for the roots and 5 times for the surface. “What matters is that in all cases we find a very significant difference in the change in probability”continues the man who directs the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute.
“It can really be concluded with confidence that climate change has made this event much more likely.”Robert Vautard, climatologist, author of the study
These results are no surprise. Drought is one of the risks identified for Europe by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report (in English). As France is experiencing at the moment, it causes agricultural yield losses, difficulties in the supply of drinking water and favors forest fires.
And this is only the beginning. “We need to get rid of fossil fuels if we want to stabilize the climate and avoid worsening these droughts, which will become more frequent and more intense with each additional degree of warming”recalls in a statement the Swiss climatologist Sonia Seneviratne, one of the authors of the study.
The climate has warmed by 1.1 ° C since the beginning of the industrial age. For the moment, the commitments made under the Paris Agreement lead us, if respected, towards an overall increase of 2.7 ° C, well beyond the targets set by the signatories.