Climate change has made unprecedented monsoon rains that left a third of Pakistan underwater last month much more likely, according to a team of scientists who analyzed the event.
The dramatic flood killed nearly 1,500 people, caused an estimated $ 30 billion in damage and left hundreds of thousands homeless. In August, the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan both had their highest rainfall totals ever recorded for the month, about seven and eight times their typical monthly totals for rainfall.
The new analysis found that such powerful precipitation can now be predicted once every 100 years in the current climate and even more often in the future as the world continues to warm, the researchers said during a press conference on Thursday held by the World Weather Attribution initiative. .
The initiative brings together scientists from around the world to analyze noteworthy weather events as quickly as possible and to help people understand the role of climate change when it matters most. The analysis has not undergone external scientific review or publication in a scientific journal, but is based on a peer-reviewed methodology and has been applied to many recent high-profile weather events. These analyzes are often published in journals months later.
To understand climate change’s footprint on the event, the researchers analyzed the annual maximum rainfall during the monsoon season in 60 days in the Indus River basin, where the floods were concentrated. They also looked at the heaviest five-day period of monsoon rains in hard-hit Sindh and Balochistan.
The study found that climate change had inflated the chances of heavy rainfall for both geographic areas and time periods. Up to a third of the rainfall that fell during the most intense period in Sindh and Baluchistan could be attributed to climate change, he found.
Heavy monsoon rains “would have been a disastrously high rainfall event without climate change, but it’s worse because of climate change. Especially in these highly vulnerable regions, small changes matter a lot, “said Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment and co-founder of the initiative.
Floods in Pakistan carry more uncertainty than other recent attribution studies because monsoon rainfall is hugely variable, available climate records only date back to 1950, and because climate models struggle to account for some of the complex weather processes in the South Asian region.
“Climate models are known to generally struggle to capture the characteristics of monsoons in this part of the world,” said Mariam Zachariah, an associate researcher at the Grantham Institute, which is part of Imperial College London. “We have seen that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the results of the models.”
Climate change isn’t the only factor that led to such a profound disaster, the analysis notes. Pakistan witnessed catastrophic floods in 2010, which shared similar climatic and meteorological characteristics.
Research on the 2010 floods suggests that water management failures, including breaches of dams and irrigation systems, played a critical role. Development in the floodplains and socioeconomic factors such as poverty have also contributed to making Pakistan more vulnerable to disasters, the analysis suggests.
“This disaster was the result of a vulnerability that was built up over many, many years and should not be seen historically as the result of a certain sporadic event,” said Ayesha Siddiqi, assistant professor in the geography department of ‘University of Cambridge.
Pakistan is responsible for less than 0.5% of the world’s historic greenhouse gas emissions, but is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The flood caused the displacement of millions of people.
World leaders described having provided aid to the country in terms of justice.
“Pakistan needs massive financial support today to overcome this crisis,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said last week. “This is not a question of generosity, this is a question of justice”.
Earlier this year, temperatures soared above 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the county. The researchers performed a heatwave attribution analysis and found it was 30 times more likely due to climate change, according to Fahad Saeed, an Islamabad-based researcher at the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
This article was originally posted on NBCNews.com