Another climate linked disaster: Will Libya be the wake-up call we need?

The recent devastating Mediterranean storm, referred to as “Daniel,” which unleashed catastrophic floods in Libya, exemplifies the growing association between extreme weather events and climate change.  

Daniel, often categorised as a medicane due to its hurricane-like attributes, harnessed its formidable strength from unusually warm sea waters. As the Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, it has the capacity to retain more moisture, leading to intensified rainfall during storms. 

Although attributing a single weather event solely to climate change is not concrete, scientists assert that there are factors in play during storms like Daniel that increase their likelihood.  

Kristen Corbosiero, an atmospheric scientist at the University at Albany, expounds, “Ascribing a sole weather event to climate change is complex, but we are aware of contributing factors.” 

Medicanes, akin to Daniel, surface approximately once or twice annually in the Mediterranean, with a higher occurrence between September and January.  

While they do not fall under the classification of true hurricanes, under specific conditions, they can attain hurricane-like strength, says Simon Mason, chief climate scientist at the Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society. 

Daniel originated as a low-pressure weather system more than a week ago but encountered impediments from a high-pressure system, resulting in excessive rainfall in Greece and the subsequent inundation in Libya. 

Escalating sea temperatures are also causing cyclones to move at a more languid pace, permitting them to discharge larger volumes of rainfall. This effect, in conjunction with human activities and climate change, compounds the impact of storms. For instance, in Greece, wildfires, loss of vegetation, and less compact soils exacerbated flooding, while in Libya, poorly maintained infrastructure exacerbated the catastrophic flooding. 

The collapse of dams outside the Libyan city of Derna led to flash floods, potentially claiming thousands of lives.  

Numerous bodies have been discovered, and 10,000 individuals remain unaccounted for following the submersion of entire neighbourhoods due to floodwaters. 

Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, says that the phenomenon of warmer waters amplifying storms is observable globally. She stresses that no region is immune to such devastating storms, citing recent instances of flooding in Massachusetts, Greece, Hong Kong, Duluth, and various other locations. 

Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist and meteorologist at Leipzig University in Germany, acknowledges that researchers have not yet had ample time to comprehensively study Daniel. Nevertheless, he observes that this year, the Mediterranean has witnessed temperatures 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above the norm. While the weather patterns culminating in Daniel might have manifested naturally, in a cooler context, their consequences would likely have been less severe. 

In a cooler environment, Daniel might not have developed as rapidly and forcefully as it did, Haustein posits, and its impact on Libya might not have been as devastating. These observations demonstrate the growing influence of climate change on extreme weather events, urging heightened attention and measures to address its repercussions. 

We are strongly committed to a future where countries have the technology and infrastructure to reduce the impact of devastating environmental events.  

Our mission is particularly focused on emissions at industry level. We have created technology that allows businesses to reduce and manage their emissions – a practice that is absolutely vital for all businesses to adopt, to give us a fighting chance to reverse the exacerbation of events such as those we are seeing in Libya today. 

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