Scorched lands caused by European heatwave clearly visible from space

30 Jul 2018

Raging forest fire at night in Zakynthos, Greece. Image: Burben/Shutterstock

The current European heatwave was twice as likely to happen as a result of human-led climate change, according to new research.

While trying to predict when a heatwave might occur might be immensely challenging for climatologists, new research has said that the current one being felt across Europe was twice as likely to have occurred than previous years.

According to the BBC, researchers from the University of Oxford compared historical records from several weather stations across Europe with the ones being experienced today and found that the intense and prolonged temperatures show that “climate change is unambiguous”.

The great browning

Three of the analysed weather stations from Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark – where three-day heatwave data went back as far as the beginning of the 20th century – confirmed that the current heatwave was significantly more likely than at any other time.

“In many parts of Europe, three-day heat is not very exceptional and you could argue that it would be better to look at longer [periods of time],” said Dr Friederike Otto, one of the study’s authors.

“But we’ve looked at longer periods and it doesn’t change the result very much.”

However, the team from the World Weather Attribution group said it is too early to tell whether the high-pressure system stuck over Europe for the past two months is directly related to climate change. A more accurate answer is likely to be found when the full results of the study are published later this year.

In the meantime, satellites have managed to capture the great browning of Europe in amazing (and somewhat worrying) detail, most notably around the town of Slagelse in Denmark.

However, other time-lapse footage captured by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission showed that land in Ireland, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands was equally parched.

While agriculture and nature in general has taken quite a hit as a result of the heatwave, it did bring about one of the archaeological finds of the decade in Ireland.

Just a few weeks ago, aerial footage revealed the site of possible henges in the fields surrounding the historical Newgrange site, brought on by the intense drying of the surrounding soil.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic