Global warming has made recent flooding in South Africa twice as likely, study finds

JOHANNESBURG, May 13 (Reuters) – Global warming has made the heavy rains that caused devastating floods in South Africa last month twice as likely as they would have been if greenhouse gas emissions from greenhouse had never warmed the planet, scientists said on Friday.

Flash flooding around the east coast city of Durban killed 435 people, left tens of thousands homeless and caused 10 billion rand ($621.73 million) in damage to roads, power lines, water pipes and one of the busiest ports in Africa. Read more

The World Weather Attribution group analyzed weather data and numerical simulations to compare today’s climate to that before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when the world was around 1.2°C cooler.

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“The results showed that an extreme rainfall event like this can now occur approximately once every 20 years,” a report on the study said.

“Without human-caused global warming, such an event would only occur once every 40 years, so it has become about twice as common due to greenhouse gas emissions.”

He added that when extreme downpours occur, they can be expected to be 4-8% heavier than if no human-induced global warming had occurred.

Attributing specific weather events to climate change is a tricky business that deals with probabilities, never certainties. But co-author Friederike Otto, from Imperial College London, said the study looked at data from the wider region, not just Durban.

“Looking at the region as a whole is actually a very meaningful way to assess the impact of climate change. (The study) means that in any given year there is a 5% chance that a something like this happens,” she said at a news conference. , compared to 2.5% in the absence of global warming.

The southeast coast of Africa is at the forefront of maritime weather systems that are worsening by climate change, scientists say. South Africa’s tropical northern neighbor Mozambique has suffered several cyclones and floods in the past decade, including one in April that killed more than 50 people.

“The patterns we see in southern Africa are consistent with what we see elsewhere in the world,” Jasper Knight, a geoscientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.

“It confirms that climate change is real, happening right now and impacting the most vulnerable.”

($1 = R16.0842)

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Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Teresa H. Sadler