Climate Change made the heavy rainfall that led to deadly floods in Libya up to 50 times more likely, scientists said on Tuesday.
The powerful Sept. 10 storm caused two dams to break, inundating Libya’s eastern city of Derna and killing thousands of people. Residential blocks built along a typically dry riverbank toppled, as the swollen river undermined foundations.
Building in flood plains, poor dam condition, long-lasting armed conflict and other local factors played a role in the disaster.
But climate change caused up to 50% more rain during that period, according to scientists with World Weather Attribution, an international research collaboration that works to determine how much climate change plays a role in specific weather events.
The scientists warned that as climate change pushes weather to new extremes, it would remain risky to build homes on flood plains or to use substandard materials.
“The interaction of these factors, and the very heavy rain that was worsened by climate change, created the extreme destruction [in Libya]”, the scientists wrote in a statement.
They used climate and computer simulations to compare weather events today with what they might have been if the climate had not already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius above the average preindustrial temperature.
Rainfall can increase or become more erratic with climate change, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour – allowing more moisture to build up before clouds finally break.