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'Unprecedented' Heat Wave Fueling Arctic Fires Made More Than Twice as Likely by Climate Change: Analysis

"The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable—the world is becoming warmer, and so heat waves like this are becoming more common."

Firefighters battle a wildfire in Sweden.

Firefighters battle a wildfire in Sweden. (Photo: @jyllandsposten/Twitter)

With wildfires raging the world over, a new preliminary analysis conducted by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) and reported by the Guardian found that the global climate crisis notably increased the likeliness of last year's Hurricane Harvey and "Lucifer" heat wave, as well as the current heat wave sweeping across Northern Europe and fueling fires in the Arctic Circle.

"This is something that society can and should prepare for. But equally there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible."
Friederike Otto, University of Oxford

"We found that for the weather station in the far north, in the Arctic Circle, the current heat wave is just extraordinary—unprecedented in the historical record," said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and WWA.

The researchers found that climate change made the heat wave in Northern Europe more than twice as likely, Hurricane Harvey three times more likely, and the Lucifer heat wave 10 times more likely.

"By comparing extreme weather with historical measurements and with computer models of a climate unaltered by carbon emissions, researchers can find how much global warming is increasing the risk of dangerous weather," the Guardian explained. This analysis differs from a full study that would require "many climate models to be run on high-powered computers, which takes months."

Summarizing their conclusion, Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford and WWA told the newspaper, "The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable—the world is becoming warmer, and so heat waves like this are becoming more common."

While "most heat wave studies have been done on large scale averages, so European-wide temperatures," Otto noted that "in this study, we have looked at individual locations, where people live, to represent the heat wave people are actually experiencing."

The heat wave that has fueled more than 50 fires in Sweden in recent weeks has also caused excessive heat throughout the U.K. and Europe—including in Greece, where a fire killed dozens earlier this week.

Pointing to recent comments from British politicians who are demanding concrete action to prevent such events from becoming the "new normal" and endangering thousands or even millions of lives, 350.org echoed their call and highlighted worldwide rallies planned for Sept. 8 to demand a future free of fossil fuels.

"What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace, and in some cases, it already has," Otto concluded. "So this is something that society can and should prepare for. But equally there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible."

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