Hotter summers are baking the water out of soil at unprecedented rates

Hotter summers are baking the water out of soil at unprecedented rates

Summer 2022, like the one before it and the one before that and the one before that one, was hot and dry across the Northern Hemisphere. This year, there were water shortages, droughts, wildfires, and crop losses around the world, and they show no signs of stopping. A new report from the World Weather Attribution initiative says that climate change and global warming are making events these severe droughts at least 20 times more likely than they were just a century ago.

Scientists hailing from India, Switzerland, France, the United States and the United Kingdom collaborated to create this report. It aimed to assess the extent to which human-induced climate changes have altered both the likelihood and intensity low soil moisture , at the surface as well as the root zones of most crops. According to the study, the lack of rain and heatwaves this summer led to very dry soils in central European countries such as France and Germany as well as China. These deficits in soil moisture led to an increase fire risk, and poor harvests that has led to already high food prices that further threatens food security around the world.

[Related: How climate change fed Pakistan’s devastating floods. ]

According to the study, extreme heat in the Northern Hemisphere was the main cause of droughts. They said it would be “virtually impossible” for to see such high average temperatures over such a large area without the influence of greenhouse gas emissions.

“In many of these countries and regions, we are clearly, according to the science, already seeing the fingerprints of climate change,” Maarten van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center and one of 21 researchers who prepared the new study, told The New York Times. He said that the impacts of climate change are now clear and are hitting hard.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), almost half of the lower 48 states experienced moderate to extreme drought in 2022 and parts of the Southwest and California are stuck in a two decade megadrought.

In Europe, record heat began to blanket the continent in May, drying up rivers and causing massive fires. The European Union estimates that heatwaves may have added 11,000 excess deaths in France and 8,000 in Germany.

[Related: The biggest tool we have to fight climate anxiety is community. ]

China faced its most brutal summer since modern records began in 1961. The dry and hot weather reduced hydropower output, forcing the country to burn more coal to keep its factories running, emitting more greenhouse gasses.

In September, scientists with World Weather Attribution said that climate change also likely worsened this summer’s devastating floods in Pakistan. The floods have damaged two million homes, submerged about one-third of the country, and caused 1,600 deaths. The initiative geared at doing rapid analysis of weather events also found that global warming had made July’s record-shattering heat wave in Britain hotter and more likely to occur in the future.

One of the report’s most central findings about the planet’s Northern Hemisphere is that because the planet has already warmed by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 Celsius) since the late Nineteenth Century, this summer’s low moisture levels in the first few feet below the soil was at least 20 times as likely to occur compared. This is where the main plants’ root systems draw water.

According to Friederike Otto (a scientist at Imperial College London) and another author of the study, natural variations in weather in Central Europe and Eastern Europe can cancel one another out because it is a smaller region than the Northern Hemisphere over the tropics.

“There is absolutely no doubt that climate change did play a big role here,” Otto said in an interview with The New York Times. But, she continued, “the exact quantification of that role is more uncertain for soil moisture than, for example, when we look at heavy precipitation.”

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