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Three-day exceptional heatwave in China linked to human-induced climate change  

07 Dec 2023 by Faye Holst
  • In June, temperatures in North China hit record breaking heights, with temperatures in Beijing reaching or exceeding 40℃ for three consecutive days.
  • The intensity of such events has increased by at least 1.0℃ due to human-induced climate change. 
  • Heatwaves like these will occur twice as likely even under proposed carbon neutral targets and will be 0.5℃ more intense. 
  • Current emissions scenario will increase the probability of reoccurrence to over five times this century with a 2.9℃ rise in intensity. 

A record-breaking heatwave occurred in North China in June, marking the first time that temperatures reached or exceeded 40°C in Beijing for three consecutive days. A new paper, published in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, explores the extent to which such extreme heatwave events can be attributed to human induced climate change and how frequent and intense such strong heatwave events will be in the future. 

The study was led by Cheng Qian of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, as part of an international consortium of research groups. Their work used two probability-based attribution approaches, an empirical approach based on observations and a coupled model approach, both with a low CO2 emissions, carbon neutral scenario and an intermediate CO2 emissions scenario. 

Qian, Professor of Atmospheric Science, says: “This study is a first attempt in establishing a real-time rapid attribution service in China, providing risk information on climate change to inform policymaking. Our findings highlight the need for change and measures to reduce emissions to address the consequences of extreme heat wave events.” 

“Rapid attribution analysis can also inform the public of how climate change is linked to the severe weather they have recently experienced. Analyses like these promote awareness and push participation in climate actions to reduce the effects of climate change and contribute to the completion of carbon neutrality. The attribution results were released to the public eight days after the event on third of July” continues Qian. 

Heatwave events are characterized by intensity and length per geographical area, with the event in June resulting in negative effects on transportation, public health, energy supply, agricultural development, and economic growth. 

A co-author of the paper, Professor Cunrui Huang from Vanke School of Public Health at Tsinghua University in China adds: “Our work has important implications across the globe, not just in North China. Countries need to implement a range of effective interventions to manage public health risks caused by climate change, including the development of heat adaptation plans and the establishment of heat-health early warning systems by government departments.” 

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