Study: 2016 Heat Waves in Asia Definitely Caused by Man-Made Climate Change


A new research report published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society revealed that the intense global temperature and extreme heat waves in Asia in 2016 were caused by continued long-term climate change.

According to the 27 peer-reviewed analyses conducted by 118 scientists from 18 countries across five continents and two oceans, Earth reached an all new high record for global heat last year, making it the warmest year ever recorded in modern times, AFP reported via Phys.org.

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The recorded average surface temperature worldwide, as said in the research, were “only possible due to substantial centennial-scale anthropogenic warming.

The findings in the research report, titled as “Explaining Extreme Events in 2016 from a Climate Perspective,” marks as the first time global scientists have identified that extreme weather would not be entirely possible without climate change.

Image via Flickr / Mohri UN-CECAR (CC BY 2.0)

This report marks a fundamental change. For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate,” editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Jeff Rosenfeld, who published the review, said.

Asia, in particular, had experienced stifling heat last year. According to the report, 580 people have died in India from March to May 2016 after the country suffered a major heat wave.

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Thailand, meanwhile, set a new record for energy consumption last year as people turned on their air conditioners to battle the intense heat.

While the Pacific Ocean warming trend of El Nino was marked in 2015 and the first part of 2016, scientists concluded that this was not to blame in the major heatwave.

The 2016 extreme warmth across Asia would not have been possible without climate change,” as stated in the research report.

Although El Nino was expected to warm Southeast Asia in 2016, the heat in the region was unusually widespread.

The ocean warming also affected other parts of the globe. It said that it has led to “massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and one of the largest harmful algal blooms ever off the Alaska shore.”

It was extremely unlikely that natural variability alone led to the observed anomalies.

Another chapter in the research report also mentioned that the so-called “blob” of sub-Arctic 2016 warmth “cannot be explained without anthropogenic climate warming.

Water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska, nearby Bering Sea and off northern Australia also had the highest record in 35 years.

The research report stated that the climate change Earth has been experiencing right now was found to have boosted the odds and intensity of El Nino, the warmth in the North Pacific Ocean as well as the severity of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

Another issue that the report noted is the flash droughts affecting southern Africa, particularly the 2015 and 2016 incidents, have tripled in the last six decades. This is all mainly due to human-caused climate change, the research suggests.

The observed Arctic warmth between November and December 2016 was also mentioned in the research, which states that it “most likely would not have been possible without human-caused warming.

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Researchers concluded by attributing the heat waves across Asia too human activity:

All of the risk of the extremely high temperatures over Asia in 2016 can be attributed to anthropogenic warming. In addition, the ENSO condition made the extreme warmth two times more likely to occur. It is found that anthropogenic warming contributed to raising the level of event probability almost everywhere, although the 2015/16 El Niño contributed to a regional increase of warm events over the Maritime Continent, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia, but had little significant contribution elsewhere in Asia.

Aside from the extreme heat waves, the likelihood of severe rainfalls have also increased in the present climate of the planet.

Extreme rains, like the record-breaking 2016 event in Wuhan, China are 10 times more likely in the present climate than they were in 1961,” said in the research.

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More than 180 people were killed in the extreme rainfall that hit Wuhan in July 2016 that even the city’s meteorological office raised a red alert during the time of crisis. The massive rainfall greatly affected the city of 10 million and caused chaos across the country.

However, researchers noted that not all extreme weather on the planet was influenced by or linked to human-caused climate change. About 20% of the events that were studied were not influenced by it including the major winter snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic United States last year and the extreme drought in northeast Brazil, which had led to water shortages.

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