How climate change is exacerbating heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods

How climate change is exacerbating heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods

  • Written by Mark Pointing and Esme Stallard
  • BBC News Climate and Science

A new study says climate change is the most likely explanation for why Dubai is experiencing increasingly heavy rainfall events.

Here are four ways climate change is linked to extreme weather.

1. More intense rain

This can lead to more drops and heavier rainfall, sometimes in a shorter period of time and over a smaller area.

Comment on the photo, The mayor of Derna in northern Libya indicated that up to 20,000 people may have died as a result of the floods.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says this pattern will continue with further warming.

2. Hotter and longer heat waves

Even a small increase in average temperatures makes a big difference in maximum temperatures.

The distribution of daily temperatures shifts to warmer levels, making hotter days more likely and more intense.

In early April 2024, temperatures in Mali reached 48.5°C during an intense heatwave across Africa's Sahel region, which was associated with increased hospitalizations and deaths.

This can be caused by heat domes, which are areas of high pressure where hot air is pushed down and trapped, causing high temperatures over large areas.

3. Longer dry periods

It can be difficult to link climate change to specific individual droughts.

But heatwaves fueled by climate change can exacerbate droughts by drying out soil. This makes the air above heat up more quickly, resulting in more intense heat.

During periods of hot weather, increased demand for water, especially from farmers, puts increased pressure on water supplies.

4. More fuel for wildfires

But climate change increases the likelihood of the weather conditions needed for wildfires to spread, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Intense, long-lasting heat draws more moisture from the soil and plants.

These extremely dry conditions provide fuel for fires, which can spread incredibly quickly, especially if winds are strong.

Comment on the photo, Canada had its worst wildfire year on record in 2023

WWA says climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme “fire weather” conditions in eastern Canada in May and June 2023, helping fires spread.

Extreme wildfires are expected to become more frequent and intense in the future globally, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. This is due to the combined effects of land use change and climate change.

The United Nations Environment Program indicates that the number of the most dangerous fires could rise by up to 50% by 2100.

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