Scientists say world is getting hot too fast for their tools to calculate

A man pours water over himself on Westminster Bridge on July 19, 2022 in London, United Kingdom.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 19: A man pours water over himself on Westminster Bridge on July 19, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Photo credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
By , Audacy

Record-setting temperatures affected large parts of the United Kingdom last week, causing a Level 4 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert to be issued on July 18 and 19 as temperatures broke 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time in the UK, according to the World Weather Attribution.

The WWA noted that their findings are most likely an underestimate because the tools used by scientists are limited and it's unclear how much human-caused climate change has to do with the heat waves.

"While models estimate greenhouse gas emissions increased temperatures in this heatwave by 2˚C, historical weather records indicate that the heatwave would have been 4˚C cooler in a world that had not been warmed by human activities," WWA said in a press release, per CNN.

"This suggests that models are underestimating the real impact of human-caused climate change on high temperatures in the UK and other parts of Western Europe. It also means that the results of the analysis are conservative and climate change likely increased the frequency of the event by more than the factor of 10 estimated by the study."

The WWA said the "heatwave is estimated to have led to at least 13 from drowning," in addition to an increase in emergency calls, and increased stress at care services that support the elderly due to an increase in heat related deaths.

The scorching temperatures even melted parts of runways and tarmacs at airports in the United Kingdom, according to

"While Europe experiences heatwaves increasingly frequently over the last years, the recently observed heat in the UK has been so extreme that it is also a rare event in today’s climate," the WWA said.

Friederike Otto, who leads the WWA project and works for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, told CNN that the consequences of climate change could be worse than scientists believed before.

"It's a worrying finding that suggests that if carbon emissions are not rapidly cut, the consequences of climate change on extreme heat in Europe, which already is extremely deadly, could be even worse than we previously thought," Otto said.

The WWA went on to suggest through their models that a similar heat wave would be nearly impossible in a world where the temperature is 1.2 degrees Celsius (34.16 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler.

"The likelihood of observing such an event in a 1.2°C cooler world is extremely low, and statistically impossible in two out of the three analysed stations," the WWA said.

"In the models, the same event would be about 2°C less hot in a 1.2°C cooler world, which is a much smaller change in intensity than observed," the WWA added.

Dr. Radhika Khosla, of the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, told CNN that the WWA's fast findings are impressive and will allow the public to better understand the recent heat wave.

"By carrying out rapid analysis based on established, peer-reviewed methods the WWA team are able to get evidence-based results into the public domain while we can all still remember the major disruptions from last week's extreme heat. This is the latest in a series of studies that all show the same result: climate change makes heatwaves more likely and more intense," Khosla said.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images