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Climate change made Europe heatwave five times more likely

Climate change made last week’s record-breaking European heatwave at least five times more likely to happen, according to a leading group of scientists.

The impact of climate change could potentially have made the heatwave 100 times more probable, according to rapid analysis by climate scientists at the World Weather Attribution group.

Their work, which has not been peer reviewed, compares the climate as it is today – with about 1C of warming – with the climate as they say it would have been without human influence.

The record-breaking temperature was recorded in Carpentras, Vaucluse
Image: Record-breaking temperatures were set in France

As a result of this 1C increase in temperature, heatwaves are now also about 4C hotter in June.

Sky's science correspondent Thomas Moore said: "This is very much a first look at the computer models.

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"The 'best guess' of climate change's role is a broad range because there are other factors at play – for example the amount of moisture in the soil – that models don't properly account for.

"The scientists will continue to refine the models to reduce the uncertainty, but that doesn't undermine the bottom line: climate change is making heatwaves more common and more extreme."

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A dog cools off in Paris
Image: A dog cools off in Paris during the heatwave

One of the authors of the study, Dr Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford, said: "This is a strong reminder again, that climate change is happening here and now. It is not a problem for our kids only.

"These numbers show very clearly that large scale projections are indicative at best of local climate change.

"If we want to understand what climate change means locally we have to bring different lines of evidence together, at the local scale where decisions are made."

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The study analysed the average temperatures across a three-day period in France between 26 and 28 June, where the highest temperatures were recorded.

Dr Robert Vautard, at the French national centre for scientific research, said: "We experienced a heatwave whose intensity could become the norm in the middle of the century.

"The new record of 45.9C (114.6F) set in France last Friday is one more step to confirmation that, without urgent climate mitigation actions, temperatures in France could potentially rise to about 50C (122F) or more in France by the end of the century.

"Upper air made a long-distance, direct and rapid travel from Sahara to Europe, a fairly exceptional situation which is however not resulting from climate change," he added.

There have been more than 230 studies examining whether climate change is making particular weather events more likely.

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