Europe’s record summer heat was only possible as a result of human-caused climate change, according to research released Wednesday by the British government’s Meteorological Office.

Researchers ran a series of computer simulations comparing the current temperature, which has warmed about 1 degree Celsius, to temperatures free of human influence. Europe’s all-time high temperatures over the summer would have been all but impossible without human contributions, according to their findings.

Without human influence, the temperatures would have a return time — or average amount of time between such events — of thousands of years. With human influence, the return time is closer to three years, with a possibility of eventually becoming an annual recurrence by the end of the century, researchers found.

Extreme temperatures recorded over the course of the summer includes an August day in which a Sicilian town saw temperatures of 119.8 degrees. Overall, temperatures were close to 1 degree hotter than the average between 1991 and 2020, according to the analysis. However, both of the previous warmest summers on record — 2018 and 2010, — were only about 0.1 degree cooler.

“This latest attribution study is another example of how climate change is already making our weather extremes more severe,” Nikos Christidis, the Meteorological Office’s climate attribution scientist, said in a statement. “Our analysis of the European summer of 2021 shows that what is now a one in three-year event would have been almost impossible without human induced climate change.”

“We can be more confident than we’ve ever been about linking extreme weather events to climate change,” added climate scientist Peter Stott.

The research also comes after a summer of extreme heat in the U.S., which included record-breaking temperatures in the Pacific Northwest. It also coincides with the first week of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where world leaders have convened with a goal of reducing emissions to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.


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