"Fingers are pointed at climate change as a key player in the catastrophic flood that claimed over 11,000 lives in the Libyan city of Derna last week, following the failure of two dams. The disaster, which was preceded by ample warnings about the urgent need for dam repairs, has led to criticism of local authorities, including the mayor and city council. However, a significant share of the blame is now being attributed to climate change, a factor that has been largely overlooked until now.
A recent study by World Weather Attribution, an international team of scientists, has revealed that the low-pressure system, Storm Daniel, was up to 50 times more likely and up to 50% more intense than it would have been if Earth was 1.2º Celsius cooler. This alarming intensification, the experts argue, is due to an unprecedented increase in rainfall intensity, a phenomenon that cannot be otherwise explained. This same pattern of increased rainfall is also believed to have contributed to recent flooding events in Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, further supporting the assertion that human-induced climate change is significantly exacerbating weather-related disasters."
Climate Change’s Role in Libyan Flood Catastrophe
Last week, the Libyan city of Derna faced an overwhelming tragedy as two of its dams failed, leading to a flood that has taken over 11,000 lives with thousands more unaccounted for. While local officials have been criticised for neglecting advance warnings that the dams required repairs, experts are also implicating climate change as a key player in the disaster.
World Weather Attribution’s Findings
A recent report by an international collective of scientists, known as World Weather Attribution, pointed to Storm Daniel, a low-pressure system, as a significant component in the calamity. They found that the storm was "up to 50 times more likely and up to 50% more intense" in an Earth that was 1.2º Celsius cooler. The report attributed this heightened intensity and likelihood to an unusual surge in rainfall intensity, which could not be otherwise accounted for.
Ripple Effects of Climate Change
This surge in rainfall is not exclusive to Libya. It has also led to flooding in other countries such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria. According to the scientists, anthropogenic climate change has likely caused the storm to be up to 10 times more probable and up to 40% more intense in regions including Greece and parts of Bulgaria and Turkey.
Consistency with Climate Change Predictions
The experts at World Weather Attribution are not the only ones pointing to climate change as a probable factor in the Libyan floods. NOAA climate scientist, Dr. Stephanie Herring, also agreed that the observed increases in heavy rainfall in Libya are consistent with the expected outcomes in a warmer world.
There is an urgent need to acknowledge the tangible impact of climate change as evidenced by such disasters. It is important to hold local officials accountable for neglecting infrastructure maintenance, but it is equally crucial to address the root issue: anthropogenic climate change. The findings of World Weather Attribution and the comments of Dr. Herring remind us that these are not isolated events but rather a part of a larger pattern triggered by climate change. It underscores the need for immediate and effective global action to mitigate these climate change impacts.