The massive and deadly floods that hit South Africa in April became twice as likely and more intense than global warming, scientists have estimated. Research shows that climate emergency is causing disaster.
Catastrophic floods and landslides hit the South African provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape on April 11 after extremely heavy rains.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the floods a “massive catastrophe” and “the greatest tragedy we have ever seen”, later declaring a national state of disaster. At least 453 people were killed and the port of Durban, Africa’s largest, was closed, causing a global cut in food and mineral supplies.
Other recent studies have found that the heatwave in the Pacific Northwest region of 2021 would be “virtually impossible” without climate change and that global warming exacerbated extreme floods in Europe in July 2021 and storms in Ma. and Mozambique in January.
“If we do not reduce emissions and keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius, many extreme weather events will become more and more catastrophic,” said Dr. Izidine Pinto, of the University of Cape Town and a member of the team that conducted the analysis. . “We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and catastrophic.”
Dr Friederike Otto, of Imperial College London and also a member of the team, said: “Most of the people who died in the floods lived in informal settlements, so we see again how climate change is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people. However, the flooding of the port of Durban is also a reminder that there are no borders for climate change. “What happens in one place can have significant consequences elsewhere.”
A fierce heat wave is raging in India and Pakistan and is likely to be exacerbated by global warming. “There is no doubt that climate change is changing the game greatly when it comes to overheating,” Otto said. “Every heat wave in the world is getting stronger and more likely to happen due to man-made climate change.”
Nick Silkstone, at the UK Meteorological Office, said: “Temperatures are expected to peak on Saturday, when maximum values could reach around 49-50 degrees Celsius. [120-122F] in the hottest locations, such as Jacobabad and the Sibi region of Pakistan. These values are about 5-7 C above the average for the time of year. “
The analysis of the role of global warming in South African floods used weather data and computer simulations to assess how likely it was that extreme rainfall would occur in today’s warm climate – 1.2C warmer than before the industrial era – and in its unheated climate in the past.
The results showed that such extreme rainfalls could now be expected about once every 20 years compared to only once every 40 years in the past, which means it has become twice as likely. The assessment also showed that rainfall was 4-8% more intense than it would have been without climate change.
This is in line with the scientific understanding of how climate change affects heavy rainfall. As the atmosphere becomes warmer, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of rainfall.