Study: Climate change and conflict make Libya’s flood more likely

Climate change has increased the likelihood of torrential rains that caused deadly floods in Libya by up to 50 times, new research said Tuesday, suggesting that conflict and poor dam maintenance have turned extreme weather into a humanitarian disaster.

A massive wave of water hit the city of Derna after heavy rains on September 10 hit two dams, sweeping entire buildings and countless residents into the Mediterranean Sea.

Scientists from the group World Weather Attribution said a deluge of the size seen in northeastern Libya was a once-in-300 to 600-year event.

They found that rainfall was more likely and more intense as a result of human-caused global warming, with rainfall increasing by up to 50 percent during this period.

In a report looking at flooding linked to Storm Daniel that swept across large parts of the Mediterranean in early September, they found that climate change has made heavy rainfall up to 10 times more likely in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, and up to 50 times more likely. in Lybia.

But researchers stressed that other factors, including conflict and poor dam maintenance, turned “extreme weather into a humanitarian catastrophe.”

To uncover the potential role of global warming in amplifying extreme events, WWA scientists use climate data and computer models to compare today’s climate — with temperature rising by about 1.2 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times — with the climate of the past.

WWA scientists can usually provide a more accurate estimate of the role climate change – or lack thereof – played in a given event.

But in this case, they said that the study was limited due to the lack of data from observational weather stations, especially in Libya, and because the events occurred in small areas, which are not accurately represented in climate models.

This means the results involve “large mathematical uncertainties”, although the study said researchers are “confident that climate change has made the events more likely”, due to factors including that the current temperature rise is linked to a 10 per cent increase in precipitation intensity. Rain.

– ‘Greater impacts’ –

“After a summer of devastating heatwaves and wildfires with a very clear climate change footprint, measuring the contribution of global warming to these floods is proving more difficult,” said Frederic Otto of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

“But there is absolutely no doubt that reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to all types of extreme weather is critical to saving lives in the future.”

Daniel, which scientists said was the deadliest and costliest storm ever to hit the Mediterranean and Africa, formed in the eastern Mediterranean, causing deadly flooding across the region during the first 10 days of September.

The scale of impacts was driven by the vulnerability and exposure of communities and infrastructure, the study said.

For example, in central Greece, damage increased because the cities are located in flood-prone areas.

In Libya, where the death toll in Derna alone has exceeded 3,300 and is expected to rise, the authors note that “long-term armed conflict, political instability, potential design flaws, and poor dam maintenance all contributed to the disaster.”

“This devastating disaster shows how extreme weather events fueled by climate change and human factors are combining to create even greater impacts, with more people, assets and infrastructure at risk and exposed to flood risks,” said Julie Arrighi, Director of the Red Cross. Al Hilal Climate Centre.


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