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‘Faster than we expected’: Summer drought made at least 20 times more likely by climate breakdown

A new study found that the climate breakdown made the summer drought in the northern hemisphere 20 times more likely. This led to higher temperatures and parched soils over large areas of the globe.

Without global heating, a drought such as this one, that caused crop failures and energy and water shortages would only have occurred once every 400 years.

According to 21 international climate scientists, such a drought has been possible since humans began burning fossil fuels and have warmed the planet by 1.2C.

The World Weather Attribution group (WWA), said that Europe experienced its hottest summer in recent years and the worst wildfires. 24,000 additional people died as a result.

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Image: Hot air flowed from the Sahara to bring hot air into June 2022. Source: ECMWF via World Weather Attribution

Other countries were also hit hard by intense heatwaves, with China issuing its initial national drought alert and the US experiencing more drought than half of its population.

Professor Sonia Seneviratne, ETH Zurich University, stated that “the fact that these concurrent events occur at the same place…that’s really something that we can only explain by human-induced climate change.”

Sky News asked her a question. She explained that, while in the past, one extreme event might have occurred in one location, but now, observations show that multiple events are occurring in many locations at once.

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Prof Seneviratne warned that “with increasing global warming…this will be even more true.”

WWA has analysed and modelled moisture in the top metre soils. This is the crucial area where crops get water, and one of the key measures of drought.

This group conducts rapid analyses of the role climate breakdown in extreme events. They compared weather data with computer simulations of the climate today after 1.2C warming to that of the past.

The main reason for the drying of the land today was hotter temperatures than changes in rainfall. These things can be difficult to measure but they believe their numbers are likely to be underestimated.

The Arctic Climate Change Study found that climate change has increased temperatures in the northern hemisphere, “to such an extent” that a summer this hot would have been impossible without climate change.

“It’s happening in front of us even faster than we might expect,” stated Dr Maarten Van Aalst, another author. He said that there are “compounding, cascading risk” in crop failures and power supply.

Hot river water and hydropower production were limited by the drought. This hot weather also impeded cooling of nuclear power. Crop yields were also affected by the blockage of grain exports to Ukraine and rising food prices.

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Dr van Aalst, who is also the director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said, “I don’t think people realized the impacts would arrive at [Western Europe] so quickly.”

Image More that half of the EU’s territory is in drought. 26% are in warning, 27% are in alert conditions during the most recent period.

Half of the territory of the European Union and 11 of the 14 areas of England are still in drought.

Environmentalists warn of the UK’s recent abandonment of many nature protections – which includes adopted EU laws and payments for farmers to boost nature. This will lead to more drought.

Kathryn Brown, the Wildlife Trust’s climate change director, stated that “this year we saw the impacts on the natural environment with devastating wildfires causing large wildlife losses and an increase in animals being taken to rescue centers with dehydration.”

Sky News’s She said that “current proposals by the Government don’t do much to reassure us that the Government fully understands the magnitude of the crises facing us.”

“Restoring Nature and Combating Climate Change are essential for avoiding the collapse of the natural world and the services that we depend on to survive.

A spokesperson for the government stated that claims we are going to reverse our commitment to the environment were simply not true.

Strong environment and strong economy go hand in hand. We have passed the Environment Act, and we will continue to update our wildlife laws and regulations in accordance with our ambitious vision.

The study was not peer-reviewed but its methods were. All previous peer reviewed studies by the group have been approved.


The Daily Climate Show airs Monday through Friday at 3.30pm, while The Climate Show with Tom Heap airs Saturday and Sunday at 3.30pm & 7.30pm.


All about Sky News on Sky News’ website and app on YouTube and Twitter.


This show examines how global warming has impacted our environment and offers solutions.

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