More than 400 people were killed last month in floods in South Africa. Man-made climate change is a big reason why, scientists say.

Catastrophic floods destroyed South Africa last month, killing at least 448 people, displacing more than 40,000 and destroying thousands of homes. According to a new analysis published Friday, the toll of that devastation was made even worse by man-made climate change.

The torrential downpour hit South Africa in mid-April, causing landslides and massive floods in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces that the nation’s president called “a catastrophe of enormous proportionsMany lost their loved ones in the middle of the night while they slept. One man said he lost 10 family members who were sleeping in their house when the flood hit. away as they slept in their loft.

Nearly 14 inches of rain fell in the region from April 11 to 12, an amount that scientists from the World Weather Attribution’s global initiative described as “extremely high” for a period of two days.

The analysis of scientists found that global warming made the event much more likely to take place. Their findings have not yet been peer-reviewed, but the group relies on peer-reviewed methods to conduct its research.

“We conclude that greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions (at least in part) are responsible for the observed increase,” the scientists said. “… We conclude that the chance of an event such as the landslide that resulted in this disaster has almost doubled due to man-made climate change.”

FILE PHOTO: Aftermath of flooding in KwaNdengezi
People stand near the remains of a building destroyed in flooding at KwaNdengezi Station, near Durban, South Africa, April 16, 2022.

ROGAN WARD / REUTERS


Climate analyst Izidine Pinto, lead author of the analysis, said adaptation is essential to prevent the worst effects of future disasters.

“We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and damaging,” Pinto said.

Scientists have been warning about these risks for years, with the latest analysis providing a stark reminder of the damage fossil fuels and greenhouse gases cause to humanity’s ability to survive. Emissions create a dense layer in the atmosphere, trapped in heat that causes global average temperatures to rise.

When the earth’s oceans are warm, the amount of water evaporates increases, causing heavier precipitation, more intense storms and flood,

The risk of an event such as the extreme rainfall in South Africa last month has doubled due to climate change, scientists concluded. If the world were 1.2 degrees Celsius cooler than it is now – about the average for industrialization – their analysis found that an event like this would happen about once in 40 years. But in today’s climate, it will happen almost every 20 years. The rain is now expected to be 4% to 8% heavier as a result.

And just like what happened in South Africa, extreme weather events will be particularly devastating in areas with economic disadvantages that are not sufficiently prepared. In this particular case, scientists pointed out challenges to governance, older infrastructure and a poor warning system – challenges that are seen in many communities around the world,

“As cities continue to develop in ways that concentrate the poorest and most marginalized people in high-risk floodplains, they will be most affected as the (sic) disaster strikes,” the report says. “While rainfall during this event was extreme, this type of event is not uncommon and will likely happen again and with even greater intensity in the future.”

The Associated Press contributed to reporting.