(Bloomberg) – Heavy rains and floods are wreaking havoc in central Europe, with more than 100 dead in Germany and dozens of people missing after collapsing houses and destroying roads and bridges. The apocalyptic scenes highlight the dangers of a more extreme climate brought on by climate change, even for some of the world’s most advanced economies.
The devastation struck the same week that European Union leaders proposed the most ambitious package of climate measures ever attempted by a major economy. While Germany was hit the hardest, heavy rains on Wednesday night and through Thursday also flooded parts of Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium.
“Science tells us that with climate change we will see more and more extreme weather events lasting longer,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a news conference in Dublin on Friday. “It is the intensity and duration of these events that science tells us that this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really is urgent to act on.”
Although it takes time to perform the analysis and determine how exactly a specific weather event is related to climate change, scientists have shown that as the temperature contrast between the equator and the poles decreases, due to warming in the Arctic, the jet stream weakens, causing it to bend and immobilize large high- and low-pressure systems over North America, Europe, and Asia. Below these highs, temperatures often skyrocket, while persistent rains fall where the lows are entrenched. Also, as the Earth warms, the atmosphere tends to hold more water, which means that any storm can become more intense.
In parts of eastern Germany and northwestern France, the amount of rain that usually falls in a two-month span fell in just twelve hours, said Frederic Nathan, a forecaster for Meteo-France. “Global warming tends to bring more extreme rainfall,” he said. “Since the beginning of June, we have seen five or six cold fronts, which is quite rare for this time of year.”
In Belgium, the waters are still rising downstream in the Meuse river that flows into the Netherlands. The southern province of Limburg was the hardest hit in the Netherlands, while thousands of people living there were forced to leave their homes and go out of business.
Liset Meddens, director of the nonprofit Fossielvrij NL that grew up in Limburg, said that as the planet warms, people must be prepared for more natural disasters. “The water, the heat, the fire, the drought, will affect us all and those who are in the most vulnerable positions,” he said. “Governments and financial institutions must stop financing the fossil fuel industry.”
Some regions of western Germany broke daily precipitation records dating back seven decades. The Kall-Sistig weather station in North Rhine-Westphalia recorded 144.8 millimeters of rain over a 24-hour period, breaking the previous record of 82.7 millimeters, set in 1947. “You can imagine this kind of thing happening in Asia, but not here, “Edgar Gillessen told the BBC.
The floods are the latest in a series of extreme weather events to hit this summer, which has already seen extreme heat waves from the US Pacific Northwest to Scandinavia, and wildfires in Siberia.
“This is not normal, this is a climate crisis,” said Tonny Nowshin, German team leader at the nonprofit 350.org. “We are now experiencing the impacts here in Europe, after we have seen them disrupting communities and ruining livelihoods around the world, from floods in Indonesia to wildfires in North America.”
Original Note: Climate Change Blamed for Deadly Europe Floods (2)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.
© 2021 Bloomberg LP