The April heat wave in Spain this year would not have been possible without human-caused climate change, a new study finds.
In late April, a heat wave spiked across Spain and Portugal into Algeria and Morocco. Temperatures got as high as 105.8F (41C), in a time of year more used to 60-70F.
The study by World Weather Attribution, which compares modern temperatures and climate events to models built on historical data, has not yet been peer-reviewed, but is done using techniques which have been, and has been offered up to review. For WWA, the priority is having their results available rapidly.
Using a model that doesn’t include oil, coal, and gas pollution trapping heat, the highest temperatures they could generate for April were nearly four degrees Fahrenheit cooler.
Study lead author Sjoukje Philip of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute said in a briefing that a weather event as extreme as the April heat wave “would have been almost impossible in the past, colder climate,” adding: “We will see more intense and more frequent heat waves in the future as global warming continues.”
Right now, over a quarter of Spain is in either drought ’emergency’ or ‘alert’ categories and water reserves are half of what they ought to be. In Morocco, water cuts are happening daily. Farmers on both sides of the western Mediterranean have warned that this years harvests will be poor, like last year and the five years before that.
In 2022, the World Health Organization estimates over 15,000 people across Europe died because of extreme hot weather. There’s hope that the WWA’s models will help to send out earlier warning about such extreme heat events.
The results of the study make sense and are important, according to outside climate scientists.
“The world is approaching the moment when nearly all heat waves will have a climate change fingerprint,” University of Washington climatologist Kris Ebi told The Associated Press in an email. “In the meantime, these kinds of analyses are valuable for moving policymakers and justifying investments.”