By Ebi Kesiena
A new study from World Weather Attribution claims that climate change contributed to the deadly floods in Libya last week.
For the analysis, scientists from Greece, the US the Netherlands, Germany and the UK estimated that the single day of rainfall over Libya advancing the floods was a one-in-600 year event. In other words, every year, it would have only a 0.17% chance of occurring.
The magnitude of the rainfall, they wrote, “is far outside that of previously recorded events.”
The death toll in Libya has soared into the thousands, though the United Nations has revised its confirmed totals downward as reporting from on the ground remains difficult.
The researchers found that the storm, which also caused days of flooding in Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, and Turkey before hitting Libya, was made substantially more likely in the warmer world. In those other countries, the storm was 10 times more likely with the 1.2 degrees Celsius of warming the globe has experienced since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and it was 40% more intense.
In Libya, the difference was worse, the storm was 50 times more likely than in a cooler climate, and it was 50% more intense.
“This disaster also points to the challenge of needing to design and maintain infrastructure for not just the climate of the present or the past, but also the future.
“In Libya, this means taking into account the long-term decline in average rainfall, and at the same time, the increase in extreme rainfall like this heavy rainfall event; a challenging prospect, especially for a country plagued by crises.” the authors wrote.
However, experts say, climate change increases the likelihood of extreme rain due to warmer atmospheres that can hold more moisture.
Libya was perhaps particularly vulnerable. The country has ageing dams that burst and caused much of the destruction, as well as a complicated political landscape, recent history of armed conflict and an apparent lack of early warning systems.