The world will see more extreme weather events that will increase in intensity as global climate change causes the atmosphere to hold more moisture, according to a climate expert.

Dr Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said that as the planet warms, the earth’s atmosphere holds more moisture, leading to extreme weather events like the unprecedented rains that hit the UAE last week. 

Burgess told the BBC Radio 4 programme that while it is hard to piece together weather dynamics of a system compared to the long-term impacts, it is known that the atmosphere globally was much warmer last year than the year before.

“We are more likely to see extreme events and they’re likely to be more intense as the atmosphere holds more moisture,” she said.

She compared the recent flooding in parts of the emirates to that which happened in Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, in the summer of 2023, when intense floods after a summer of wildfires were reported to have killed a minimum of 15 people across the three countries.

In one part of Greece, there had been a year’s worth of rain in one day, while in Dubai last week, there had been twice the annual rainfall in one day, she said.

Europe is the fastest warming continent, with three of the warmest years on record there having occurred there since 2020, she said, adding that the continent was 7% wetter than average in 2023, which was experienced through more intense storms.

Contributors include marine heat waves in the North Atlantic off the Irish coast, with evaporation from the extremely warm ocean surface leading to an additional source of moisture, which impacted summer across Europe, leading to very dull conditions and extreme rainfall, she said.

While much of the UAE had returned to normal by Monday following school closures, flooded roads and major disruption to flights at Dubai International Airport (DXB), flood rescuers in the Northern Emirate of Sharjah were reported to have worked for five days straight to help stricken residents.  

Local news outlets have reported on the deaths of four people, three from the Philippines and one Emirati national, in the UAE floods.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)