Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Climate change made European heatwave up to 3°C hotter (nature.com)
202 points by pseudolus 70 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 129 comments

We are a frog being boiled slowly. It seems really impossible to stop right now even though we probably have the technology to do so.

Isn't this human nature? Most people should probably lead a much more healthier lifestyle. We are fully aware our bad habits are slowly killing us, yet most do nothing about it.

Offtopic but I just read that in reality frogs do jump :)

There’s nowhere for us to jump as far as I’m aware...

Mars is cold, and could be reached (by some humans) in a lifetime. However habitable is another thing.

Yeah we can't even stop ourselves from destroying working ecosystems but we're apparently going to terraform systems which are currently not livable at all. That sounds likely.

Much like throwing away a large legacy codebase and rewriting the product from scratch, it may seem easier to "do it the right way this time", until you start discovering, one by one, all the little corner cases the old codebase solved...

At least with the legacy v existing codebase you know you've solved the problems once so you can solve them again.

That's not the case here, we've never come close to building self-sustaining ecosystems, we're just (ab)using existing ones we're barely starting to understand.

It does to me.

Why would you go to a new planet that requires artificial habitats instead of setting those habitats up on earth?

Yeah, even if climate change is really bad and means 10 degrees increase, Earth will still be more habitable than Mars. And reversing climate change, while a huge project, will be easier than terraforming Mars (at least from a technological perspective, political perspective is a different question). As much as I think that global warming is a major threat to humanity, Mars won't be more habitable than Earth for a long time.

There are already quite hostile places on Earth that require lots of technology to be habitable, like Antarctica, or the surface of the oceans. But both places are far more habitable than Mars is. And if something goes wrong you can send help far more easily.

This mars bullshit is basically the Bioshock plan.

If you assume it's to "save humanity" it makes no sense whatsoever, there's no way you'll terraform mars and be able to send thousands of people there let alone millions let alone billions before it all goes down.

If you assume it's a bunch of libertarian brolionaires who want to skedaddle when shit hits the fan it still makes no sense but it fits with the same folks building doomsday bunkers in NZ.

> If you assume it's to "save humanity" it makes no sense whatsoever, there's no way you'll terraform mars and be able to send thousands of people there let alone millions let alone billions before it all goes down.

It's meant as a long term plan to save us when earth goes down for whatever reason, be it a meteorite or a global war, or whatever. With long term I mean 100-2000 years, until you basically could erect a self sufficient martian colony that needs no help from earth.

Climate change on the other hand is mainly a short term threat, i.e. if we can deal with it in 500 years, we can also deal with it in 5000 years.

> bunch of libertarian brolionaires who want to skedaddle

Wow, calm down buddy. Also, I'm new here but is such vitrolic/hateful language welcome on this site?

> It's meant as a long term plan to save us when earth goes down for whatever reason

It's literally being advertised as a workaround to global warming upthread… When Bezos gives literally not a single lonely shit about global warming and pours his billions into space crap, it's not with a 2ky term plan.

> Climate change on the other hand is mainly a short term threat, i.e. if we can deal with it in 500 years

Climate change is not something we'll have to deal with 500 years from now, it's something we're already 50 years late on.

Space isn't going away, and in dealing with AGW we'll likely have learned a lot about sustainable systems and ecosystems, and have innovated a bunch of useful things for long-term enclosed systems with no backup.

> Wow, calm down buddy.

Not sure why you're projecting that I'm anything but calm? Does it bother you that not everybody prostrates for the overclass? Does it make you feel uncomfortable to read such thoughts being written?

> such vitrolic/hateful language

Hahaha yeah right.

They put things in more emotional terms than I would have, but they use those terms to make a coherent argument. While there is room for improvement, this is in my opinion not an example of an extremely problematic post.

It’s not a technological or even a technical problem

What is the technology that we do have, but we refuse to use in order to solve the problem?

Nuclear power for energy.

Forestation/harvesting for carbon capture.

Forestation for the win! But apparently there are a lot of people looking into it (http://trees.org, http://edenprojects.org, https://onetreeplanted.org -- which even has awesome mini-crowd-funds for your company/wedding/etc: https://www.classy.org/campaign/tree-ambassadors/c200082).

How do you get large scale adoption though? Laws? Government projects? Millionaires?

Tax incentives. It's how we encourage a lot of good samaritan behavior.

Offer tax deductions for trees and watch forests pop up everywhere.

Government could subsidize the price of lumber. You want it to be a more economical alternative than farmland. Then leave things like efficient use of water, tree density, and type of fast growing tree to the market, those are probably already optimized.

Government projects, on the international scale.

I'm wondering about crowdfunding and putting the land into a national land bank.

I've seen some promising research from olivine rocks for carbon capture: https://projectvesta.org/. I can't vouch for the science behind it because I'm not knowledgeable in this but it sounds a good idea.

If I have to choose between mass nuclear to replace fossil fuels or the alternative of global warming .... I choose global warming.

Can you elaborate on why?

To my mind:

- We have not solved storage in a way that is reliable enough for nuclear waste

- Nuclear uses another limited resource that will run out, then we'll have to switch again

- Nuclear isn't much better than renewable, and renewable is also available (and has problems that are currently tractable)

Solar everywhere is a great start. Massive promotion of electric vehicles, combined with carbon taxes pegged to temperature. Contraceptive use promotion to reduce unwanted births.

What is the device that captures solar energy, but does not produce massive amounts of pollution while it is being produced?

Solar cells. They have offset the energy needed for production in a couple of months. And of course, you can use solar energy to produce solar cells.

Tech is not the problem here. The problem is that we refuse to adapt our society and standards to external constraints.

"Refuse to use" is the wrong expression, as we are using the technology to solve the problem as in solar, wind, wave, water, etc. It is just that we are refusing to give up on fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) quickly enough. We should be pushing at the maximum possible speeds to make the transition. For an intermediate time, using gas instead of coal and oil also reduces the CO2 footprint, as gas has a 1/3rd less carbon compared to coal. Which is also a reason, why Diesel cars don't save as much carbon as the fuel consumption suggests, as Diesel fuel is about 10% more carbon-rich than gasoline per litre.


> What is the technology that we do have, but we refuse to use in order to solve the problem?

Money, laws and maybe some coercion tools.

Rail transit

Jean-Marc Jancovici has IMO the best analysis of energy options when it comes to climate change (his whole website is excellent reading), and he does not think that rail transit can directly substitute for car and truck use with today's population distribution in developed countries: https://jancovici.com/en/energy-transition/transportation/co...

I don't remember Jancovici having a proposition that lets us sustain the current population distribution, especially for large cities, rail or no rail.

It feels like more than 3 C. When I was a child it was hot in summer when it was between 25 en 30 C. Now it is hot in summer when it is between 35 and 40 C.

In my hometown in Russia they routinely grow these days the unreachable stuff of my childhood dreams like apricots, sweet cherries, etc. Though the children there can't ski cross country in winter anymore for the lack of snow.

There is more temperature increase needed though for the majority of the country to become apricot (or even wheat) growing, and so if you've noticed Russia doesn't waste time/effort on climate talks/etc. - it pumps the oil like crazy instead, tries to develop its North/East and builds new weapons, including the systems intended for the North/East territories which are going to become more used (and contested) with the coming and increasing warming. For those who know the Russian jokes, that is an optimistic version of the future. Never mind some minor bumps along the road https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/14/thawing-perma...

"almost 60% of all buildings in Norilsk have been deformed as a result of climate change shrinking the permafrost zone. Local engineers said more than 100 residential buildings, or one-tenth of the housing fund, have been vacated here due to damage from thawing permafrost."

In my family we are collecting climate data since 1948 and as child i remember temperatures above 37C where extremely rare (like 3 times in 60 years). We were super excited when once the record was exceeded of a decimal point.

Now we have days with 37 and 38 C every summer, sometimes even 40 (we are in south europe).

I'm in northern Europe, and some places in the country hit 40. When I was a kid, 30 was rare. Above 35 unheard of. This year was absolutely extreme, and yet I fear it may become the rule.

This is just the beginning. We are halfway of the way to 1.5°C and there is no reason why warming should stop at 1.5°C.

> In my family we are collecting climate data since 1948

Do you happen to know in what years were the previous temperature records set? Could it be they were set prior to 1948?

1976 in the UK was fiercely hot for months. I've been told that there was smoke in every direction from our house due to wildfire.

That's a cool family project! However, assuming that you're only collecting data where e.g. you live, I think you're collecting weather data, not climate data. Climate refers to global averages.

This may sound like a nitpick but it's important to remember that no data from a single location can say much of anything about what the global climate is doing. It's quite possible for some places to get colder even if the climate grows warmer.

Wikipedia: " . . . long-term averages of weather are called "climate".[1][2]"

"The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents."

Climate is defined as long term averages of weather, so a single location can have a climate that's different from another location.

No, a tropical rainforest and the South Pole have very different weather patterns. Those trends which generally includes seasonal variations are called Climate.

In a broader sense, the "climate" of a region is the general state of the climate system at that location. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate

Don't know where you grew up but for some this will have definitely increased the temperature over the years - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island

You'd be surprised what a couple degree difference can feel like. In Queensland we turn the AC to only 3 degrees below the outside temp and it feels way colder inside.

The AC also removes moisture from the air, which makes it feel much cooler as sweating becomes more effective (if moisture is low enough, you can feel comfortable at 35C with no wet spots)

> if moisture is low enough, you can feel comfortable at 35C with no wet spots

Conversely if moisture is high enough, you can be dying at 35C (35C WBT is the point at which the human body can't shed heat to the environment anymore).

Atleast according to Kachelmann, a german weather reported with some controversy behind him, stated that most heat-related deaths could have been prevented if moisture had been lower; if people who only vent during the night would pull in extra moisture and just make it hard on them. He recommends to always leave the window open so fresh air can move in and out.

(Note that this is in germany, we don't have regular AC so leaving your window open or tilting it is the only option)

But yeah, at WBT 35°C you're going to start running into thermal problems. At that point your best bet is lots of cold water (careful you don't overhydrate, that's equally dangerous as dehydration in the heat), that can probably push you to 37C WBT.

But beyond that it's basically a race against stress shutdown of your body to get some effective method of cooling going.

Good point! Can't believe I didn't consider that. QLD is very humid too.

Atm I'm fighting a 25C/80% humidity weather, during the heatwave the worst was 44C/70% (measured on my own station, officially my location had 39C, and it could have been higher but my sensor isn't designed for more than 45C)

3 degrees is indeed a lot, but you will only have the temperature sensor that regulates indoor temperature in a specific place so, depending on placement, other areas of the room can get way colder. Also they typically have builtin hysteresis so they only react when they go below a threshold of difference. Lastly most HVAC systems also manage humidity so heat sensation varies more.

Not all temperature is equal, I've experienced 40C in multiple plates (California, NC, NY(not C), Spain and (once) the UK), in California and Spain it was bearable with low humidity and helped by infrastructure used to it, the rest not so much.

I'm pretty sure you haven't experienced 40C in the UK, as their temperature record currently sits at 38.7C

AFAIK listed temp records are for shaded areas, they might have had to be in the sun for some reason.

I feel like this is the case too. I wonder though if 3C is enough to push hot into uncomfortably hot. Especially if at night its 3 degrees warmer so the house never really cools and humidity is higher.

For me, the most obvious change is the increasingly shorter and shorter skiing season.

We've experienced the opposite in the pnw. Winters are more polarized. Either they suck or they are insanely good and long.

That's definitely something I observed more keenly than the locals when I moved to Japan, this being the place where I first experienced snowfall.

15 years ago i was the only one with AC in my building (20 apartments building). now only 6 apartments don't have AC (Bucharest)

15 years ago, there were nearly twice as many people living in extreme poverty. The world is changing very rapidly. I lent the book to friends to read so I can only paraphrase from memory, but what Hans Rosling wrote in Factfulness is that he went back 20 years later to the same place in India, showing them pictures of how it was there 20 years ago and the huge improvements that were made, the people flat out didn't believe it. "Sure it was worse 20 years ago, but it was never that bad" was the people's response.

Romania is an example of a country that has developed a lot in the past few decades. I'm inclined to think that people can now afford AC, rather than that it's necessary. It's really nice having a cool place to work and sleep in, it really improves the quality of life, so when people can buy one, they would.

I don't know about the historical price of ACs when corrected for inflation, but it almost certainly didn't go up, and Romania doesn't have the temperatures they have near the equator. Those few degrees due to climate change is probably not the reason why suddenly a lot of people decided to buy one.

Here are Bucharest temperatures since 1860, measured from the Filaret station, according to Berkeley.


So while global temperatures may have been rising, they have been flat for Bucharest.

The fact that you think it has been getting warmer for you there, however, is an interesting point about media effects and mass psychology.

EDIT: Here too, is the same data station after Berkeley's data quality process has been applied: https://i.imgur.com/LvmbD9v.png No comment.

What is "Berkeley's data quality process"? I've not heard of that. Thanks!

The implication is that Berkeley is "correcting" the temperature record in Bucharest to show rising temperatures over time even though the raw data don't show an overall increase. I'll let someone with more expertise comment on what the rationale behind Berkeley's process actually is.

I implied no such thing! I posted the raw data for the longest record Bucharest station that I could find, and included the adjusted data before someone could accuse me of hiding things.

Here it is on the Berkeley site. Raw data is the top graph, quality controlled (their term!) is the bottom graph.


If you want to find out their method, I'd recommend the following links:



And please be more careful about accusations of climate change denialism. You could get people fired with that sort of thing.

Two stations close by report an increased temperature in the past 50 years: http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/stations/157729 http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/stations/19998

In all three cases, the data in their DB ends in 2013.

Look at their longitude and latitude. Those two are on the edges of Bucharest (which is why the one that you linked was set up in the 1950s, and the other in the 1970s). The longstanding temperature station is in the center of the city.

I think that what you are most likely seeing is the urban heat island effect rather than any incorrect measurements on the part of any of these stations. Areas undergoing urban expansion get hotter as they are built up.

The 2013 cutoff may be a limitation of the Berkeley data in general.

Sorry for the accusation - I was quite confused looking at the graphs.

Thank you for the links - I appreciate it!

Nah, the raw data shows the same thing. Look at the green line of "long-term trend" on the raw data picture.

Ah, I see a slight increase there. Thanks for pointing it out. I'd love to know more what was behind the "empirical breaks", especially the most recent one - they're applying almost a -1 degree Celsius correction currently.

So it's more or less 1 degree warmer than the 80s quite similar to the global average temperatures. What are you so smug about?

Are the people in Bucharest richer now than they were, and did ACs become cheaper?

While I too think it's warmer now where I live, and in the winters it definitely is, your anecdote does not show much.

You are missing a third option: AC became more necessary for normal life functioning

That was the first option, to which Parent is replying with alternative/related options.

That's not an equivalent third option unless you're in a position to afford it.

Afford means different things for necessities and luxury goods, so, semantics

A luxury can easily become a "necessity" with increases in purchasing power and/or a decreases in product prices.

An anecdotal example. I purchased a home last year which did not have AC. The previous owners lived in the house for over 20 years with out ever "needing" an air conditioner. My wife and I did not make it to the summer before installing an AC. I have no doubt I could have survived without an AC but why bother? Its cheap (relatively speaking) and improves my quality of life.

It's also very dependent on personal adaptation. If you've always lived in an airconditioned space then you're not used to dealing with the heat. The previous owners likely were, and consequently were less bothered by it.

Putting food on the table isn't really a concern if you're all dead from heat exposure. Sounds like AC has just become a basic human need in some areas.

There are people living in 3rd world tropical countries who commonly experience 40C who might disagree with your "dead from heat exposure".

Yep, and some of those people die because of it. The temperature is CHANGING from their normal to extremes. People aren't prepared, that's the point.


Same with countries in the middle east. When I was in Iraq during the summer, it would normally be ~120F in the shade during the day, and get up to the 130-140 range in direct sunlight. It's not like the villages without stable power or AC had people dropping dead from heat all the time, they dressed appropriately and would only do physical activities in the morning and evening. During the hottest part of the day they'd hang around inside out of the sun and relax. You'd still get hot and sweaty, but you wouldn't die.

Those people have been living in those temperatures for thousands of years. Their culture thrives in it. When heat waves hit temperate areas, people are not prepared. You sit out there in 140 degrees, and you're not going to survive very long without the knowledge to do so. Look at the animals dying in the polar regions, as their cold habitats warm up. No different.

We’re talking about a difference of less than 1 degree in 15 years. That probably doesn’t make AC a necessity.

the peaks are higher, that's when you want AC

How different are the peaks?

Same thing happened in LA in the 1980s. Before that, you didn't really need air conditioning in your home and having A/C had no effect on rent. By the 1990s, having A/C would allow you to charge much higher rents, because it was much more of a necessity that people would pay extra to have.

I have been in Bucarest in April. It was hot as hell but more over was the humidity levels, totally killed me. I used AC all the way.

Might be like washing machines, which are a sort of a global prosperity indicator.

or maybe cellphones?

Ironically, this likely exacerbates warming.

It's not really an irony. It's just one more positive feedback mechanism. Humans (contra religious stories) are ecosystem participants.

This seems to be the referenced analysis:


The researchers came to their conclusion after running a multitude of climate simulations, however, this part concerns me:

>Models that did not represent heat waves well were withdrawn from the analysis.

Serious question: is climate science immune from the statistical abuses that have recently been shown to plague other empirical and/or model based disciplines?

Not immune, but pretty reistant, yes.

The results of these models are usually compared with actual data from the real world, very much like in astronomy or geology. If a model doesn't agree with reality, it gets discarded pretty quickly.

In fact, that is what the researchers did in this case: They applied several statistical models of weather extremes to both models and real data and compared them. Every model that failed to predict the actual measured heat wave went out.

That seems like a good way of establishing a baseline, and gives high confidence in the predictive power of the remaining models.

You could argue about how the weather data was selected, and how it was compared with the models. But that is already a discussion about details of the specific study. This one is a collaboration between multiple reputable institutions, so it is pretty safe to assume sound practices.

Notably, the fact that you actually know about statistical abuse in science shows that the scientific process is working as intended: Results are public and therefore can be and are scrutinized. More important stuff also receives more scrutiny, less important stuff can go unchecked until it is cited more often.

But eventually errors will be unearthed and accounted for.

> In fact, that is what the researchers did in this case: They applied several statistical models of weather extremes to both models and real data and compared them. Every model that failed to predict the actual measured heat wave went out.

Wouldn't it be better to select the models which have had the most accurate predictions over as long a period as the required data are available? Mean squared error of temperature, or something. Promoting models primarily for their ability to predict an event that is currently happening seems like a terrible idea.

Why would it be?

I wouldn't put too much stock on the exact predicted delta, but more on the direction and rough order of magnitude of the change.

> Serious question: is climate science immune from the statistical abuses that have recently been shown to plague other empirical and/or model based disciplines?

I'm not sure what you're referring to, and I'd love to read up on it if you have a source?

These kinds of stories have been popping up on HN with seemingly increasingly frequency over the last couple years, e.g.:




Long story short: most scientific disciplines are in crisis in part because of pervasive p-value hacking, and other statistics abuses likely motivated by perverse academic/personal incentives and/or biases.

Taking a look, thanks for sharing!

It is standard scientific process to discard models that fail to predict actual outcomes.

> Serious question: is climate science immune from the statistical abuses that have recently been shown to plague other empirical and/or model based disciplines?

Here is a skeptic's analysis of the NOAA & IPCC data.


Strange enough, in central Europe it's like having spring, the temperatures are like 20-24 degrees (Berlin, Germany area), while other neighbours are melting down

Germany here. I remember the hottest summer in my hometown would exceed 40°C (up to 45°C), but now people already complain if it gets past 30°C. Not sure what to make of this. They probably got used to air conditioned offices and now feel the heat way hotter, because of the stark difference.

This is getting really bad, I think we're way past the "let's just stop doing the bad thing" and into the "we need real actions to fix this thing like if it was a deadly epidemic, now"


Nuclear is too expensive, too slow to build, and not suitable for all countries.

Perhaps things would have been different if more countries had been like France and built a large network of nuclear power stations to fuel their weapons program; but even France is regretting it and had not built a new one for decades.


It's possible to both accept climate change and to legitimately be concerned about the hazards of nuclear power.

But not if humans were facing extinction, which is what the parent was talking about. Nuclear power hazards would not matter in that scenario.

We don't need nuclear power to prevent our extinction. Yes, having like France a large set of active nuclear reactors helps keeping CO2 emissions down. But from a pure financial point of view even, it is far more efficient to use solar and wind (and water etc.). For the same amount of money you get a lot more energy produced than with nuclear.

this. nuclear power is hardly foolproof and even countries like UK don't have local expertise and have to rely on France and China to build and operate nuclear facilities

The hazards of nuclear power are less than the hazards of not having cheap and plentiful energy.

"My leg is trapped by a rock."

"We could move th..."

"We must cut my leg off."

"But we could move the ro..."


How serious or dangerous climate change is has nothing to do with what your opinion of the activists is. I tend to agree that nuclear is probably an important part of the solution, but your position is a non sequitur.

Precisely. The powers that be are apparently intent on forcing mass immigration to high income countries, creating a need for new infrastructure and housing, but somehow apparently all that concrete is magically carbon neutral because diversity ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The fuck kinda metric is that? Politicians have no say in the legitimacy of climate change. You're calling bullshit on facts because a dozen people don't have a clue?

The metric for whether people in power really believe the world is ending, as opposed to climate change being another problem they have to deal with while considering the political ramifications.

Unfortunately, nuclear seems to be toxic in Germany. There's no way any of the parties are ever supporting it, much less the green party ("Atomkraft nein danke"), which is gaining a lot of political ground in parliament and across the country.

It’s already dead here, and I would argue that it is not unfortunate at all. It’s also a distraction from dismantling coal power and the large car lobby here.

It's not a distraction. We're two decades away from replacing coal, we could've replaced it today. As always, we're putting off optimal solutions for some solution that might materialize in the future while we slowly wean ourselves off of the stuff that's destroying our habitat right now and having visible effects right now and from which tens, hundreds millions of people will visibly suffer in the coming decades from what we're doing right now (no, I don't mean the poor Bourgeoisie in France, I'm talking about everybody in Africa, South America, Asia, the Middle East). It's insanity.

In Australia a pro-nuclear government commisioned a report on nuclear power (https://newmatilda.com/2006/11/22/part-three-switkowski-repo...). It found it would reduce emissions by 18% at best but more interestingly it concluded that nuclear power could not compete without a steep price on carbon. Even that was before renewable prices plummeted.

It's not environmental groups that are against a price on carbon, until you can convince conservatives to get on board with one then nuclear can't even get passed the first hurdle.

I don't know about Australia but in the United States nuclear is cheaper than fossil based energy by >30% : https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_04.html

And as far as I know, conservatives are pro-competition and not against nuclear at all in the States.

in the United States nuclear is cheaper than fossil based energy by >30%

For existing plants? The problem with expanding nuclear, at least in Europe, is not the operational costs but that the cost of building new nuclear power stations is so high that they'll never pay for themselves without massive subsidies.

Wow... I would have expected « Nature » to know that Celcius are not degrees.

The degree symbol in the title should not be there.

You're thinking of Kelvin. Celsius does indeed require the degree symbol.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact