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Western Europe Can Expect More Heavy Rainfall And Fatal Floods As The Climate Warms

Michael Probst, AP
Destroyed houses are seen in Schuld, Germany, on July 15 after devastating floods hit the region.

Heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding events like those that hit Western Europe last month will be more frequent and intense due to climate change, a new scientific study says.

From July 12-15, heavy rainfall led to severe flooding that killed more than 200 people in Germany and Belgium, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The World Weather Attribution initiative, an international group of climate scientists behind the report, said July's historic rainfall was 1.2 to 9 times more likely to happen due to global warming.

The researchers used peer-reviewed scientific methods to examine how human-induced climate change affected rainfall events in Europe this summer.

Climate change increased the rainfall intensity

Using historical records going back to the late 19th century and computer simulations, the researchers studied how temperatures affected rainfall in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

They found climate change increased the amount of rain that can fall in one day in the region by 3 – 19%, when compared to a climate 1.2 degrees Celsius cooler (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) than it is now. The increase is similar for a rainstorm that happens across two days.

During the rainstorms that hit the region last month, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, a town in Germany, received two months' worth of rain in just two days.

As the planet continues to warm, the likelihood and strength of extreme weather events are likely to increase further, the study added.

This report further supports the concept that the effects of climate change will become worse as time goes on, if humans don't make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions soon.

These findings follow a major report from the United Nations that said global climate change is accelerating, and humans are the overwhelming cause.

Extreme weather events have wreaked havoc all over the world this summer. This month deadly floods hit Tennessee and wildfires have swept across the U.S. West Coast and Europe, destroying parts ofGreece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Fires have also erupted in Russia's northern Siberia region.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.