Floods in Pakistan ‘probably’ worse due to warming

Floods in Pakistan ‘probably’ worse due to warming

floods in Pakistan

floods in Pakistan

Global warming probably played a role in the devastating floods that hit Pakistan, scientists say.

Researchers from the World Weather Attribution group say climate change may have increased the intensity of rainfall.

However, there were many uncertainties in the results, so the team was unable to quantify the scale of the impact.

The scientists believe that there is about a 1% chance that such a situation will occur in any other year.

In the two months since flooding began in Pakistan, thousands of people have been affected, and around 1,500 have died due to the rising waters.

Due to the intensity of the downpour, the Indus river burst its banks, causing landslides and urban flash floods.

From the beginning, the politicians pointed out that climate change had greatly contributed to the desperation.

But this first scientific analysis says the picture is complicated.

Certainly, the severe heat waves that affected India and Pakistan earlier this year were easier to explain, and researchers found that climate change made them up to 30 times more likely to occur.

But extreme rainfall events are difficult to estimate. Pakistan is located on the edge of the monsoon region where the rainfall pattern is highly variable from year to year.

A map showing the damage caused by monsoon rains

A map showing the damage caused by monsoon rains

Other complications include the impact of large-scale weather events such as La Niña, which also played a role in the last major floods in Pakistan in 2010.

During the 60-day period of heaviest rainfall this summer, scientists recorded an increase of about 75% across the Indus basin, while the heaviest five-day period in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan recorded an increase in rainfall of about 50%.

The researchers then used climate models to determine how likely these events would be in a world without warming.

Some of the models suggested that the increases in rainfall intensity could be a result of human-caused climate change – but there were significant uncertainties in the results.

“Our evidence suggests that climate change played an important role in the event, although our analysis does not allow us to quantify the extent of the role,” said Friederike Otto of Imperial College London, one of the authors of the report.

“What we saw in Pakistan is exactly what climate forecasters have been predicting for years. It is also consistent with historical records that show that heavy rainfall has increased significantly in the region since humans started emitting numbers large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And our analysis also clearly shows that further warming will make these torrential events even more intense.”

“So, although it is difficult to put a precise figure on the contribution of climate change, the fingerprint of global warming is clear.”

The researchers say there is about a 1% chance of a repeat of the heavy rains experienced by Pakistan this year in any given year, although this estimate also comes with a large range of uncertainty.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.