“This is what you would expect from a planetary warming that’s been driven in large part from greenhouse gases; this is now the world we’re living in,” Vecchi told CNN, noting that “it’s fair to think that almost every heatwave that we see right now has some influence from global warming.”
All-time records were poised to topple in the UK on Monday and Tuesday, with temperatures running 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal for this time of year.
Further south, where the heat has been entrenched for more than a week, at least 1,000 people have died from heat-related illness in Portugal and Spain so far. Temperatures in Spain climbed to more than 45 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit) during its nearly week-long heat wave.
And in the US, more than 40 million people were under heat warnings and advisories on Monday from North Dakota to Texas, where high temperatures were expected to climb into the 90s and 100s. Dozens of temperature records could be broken through the week, forecasters warned.
Imagine a bell-shaped curve of temperatures, Vecchi said, with cold on the left and warm on the right. As climate change shifts this temperature curve to the warmer side, the long tails of the curve increase by a proportionately larger amount than the middle, signifying the increasing likelihood of hotter events to happen and making cold events less likely.
Vecchi said the European heat wave is noteworthy, given its back-to-back nature, which will only continue as the planet warms and is all the more reason to prepare for a hotter future.
While this year isn’t yet trending to be the hottest on record, despite the South Asian heat wave back in May and yet another heat dome in Europe, this year remains warmer than historical eras, which Vecchi said “is driven in large part due to the increase in greenhouse gases coming from fossil fuel burning.”
“It’s been a year of warmth,” he said. “And these are the signatures of global warming.”