Europe’s July floods: So rare and extreme, they’re hard to study

Madagascar may soon experience the world’s first climate change famine

Unrelenting drought in the south of Madagascar has left the country on the brink of famine, says the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

80% of the population is resorting to desperate survival measures including eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits and wild leaves.

The island state off the East African coast is experiencing levels of starvation at a scale described as “beyond belief”. The latest reports from WFP say urgent action is required to address this unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Widespread drought is caused by drier than normal conditions that eventually lead to water supply problems. Climate change-induced heatwaves and rising temperatures can make drought worse.

Semi-arid conditions in southern Madagascar, combined with high levels of soil erosion and deforestation have transformed arable land into a wasteland. Unprecedented sandstorms have also covered croplands making it unusable.

Worst affected is the district of Ambovombe where Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) has risen above 27 per cent. It is the worst drought to hit the country in four decades. Children with acute malnutrition are most at risk as they are four times more likely to die than healthy children…READ ON

Europe’s July floods: So rare and extreme, they’re hard to study

The backdrop of a steadily warming climate has frequently raised questions about whether any given extreme weather event could have been influenced by climate change. It’s a natural question to ask, but answering it in peer-reviewed detail usually takes months or years.

One of the challenges was that the floods destroyed the monitoring equipment, so we don’t know how much water ended up in these river basins. 

In response, researchers started the World Weather Attribution program, which has developed a streamlined analysis pipeline that lets them address questions of climate influence before the public has forgotten the event happened. This technique allowed the group to rapidly determine that climate change played a key role in this summer’s Pacific Northwest heat wave.

Now, the group has attempted to tackle this summer’s European floods, which destroyed communities in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. And here, the answer was a lot more complicated. The floods hit a small area and were extreme enough that they destroyed some of the monitoring equipment that would otherwise have told us just how bad they were. Nevertheless, the team found that climate change likely boosted the chances of an event like that in northwestern Europe…READ ON

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