European Floods and Climate Change

Taken from TheGuardian and the NYTimes

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The floods which brought Paris to a standstill at the end of May are more almost twice as likely to have resulted because of the manmade emissions driving global warming, a group of Dutch scientists have found.

A three-day period of heavy rain at the end of May saw tens of thousands of people evacuated across France, and the capital’s normally busy river closed to traffic because the water levels were so high under bridges. As artworks in the Louvre were moved to safety and Paris’s cobbled walkways were submerged, the French president, François Hollande, blamed the floods on climate change.

Now The Guardian reports that a preliminary analysis by a group of scientists, including the Dutch weather agency and the University of Oxford, has concluded the risk of the flooding event in Paris was almost doubled – multiplied by a factor of 1.8 – by humanity’s influence on the climate.

The NY Times confirms that the climate science community is speeding up its efforts to draw the links between extreme weather events and climate change, while such events are fresh in the public and politician’s minds. Previous quick turnaround research has shown flooding in England and heatwaves in Europe were made more likely because of global warming.

shutterstock_293434886In France, a deadly heat wave centered in the country in August 2003 and killed more than70,000 people across the continent. It was the hottest European summer on record since at least the year 1500 and apparently a harbinger of things to come. A December 2014 study in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that Europe is now 10 times more likely to experience a similarly extreme heat wave than it was a decade ago because of human-made global warming.

Almost all previous floods on the Seine and Loire have occurred during winter, the researchers said, making the summer timing very unusual. The rains saw the Seine peak at 6.1 meters above its normal height on 3 June, a 34-year high. Its record peak was in 1910, when an eight-meter rise caused the catastrophic ‘Great Flood of Paris’.

shutterstock_431381836The scientists found at least a 40 percent greater likelihood of a three-day deluge because of climate change. Their best estimate was that global warming increased the probability of such a deluge by 80 percent for the Seine River basin (which includes Paris, where the river rose about 20 feet above normal) compared with a world where the climate was not changing.

The World Weather Attribution project’s report concluded that Climate change made the flooding in France far more likely but was unable to draw a conclusion about Germany which had also experienced floods.

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