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New research into the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment has concluded that human activity makes 2003-style heatwaves across Europe an ever-increasing likelihood, the Met Office reports.

The 2003 scorcher - which is estimated to have caused 27,000 excess deaths across the continent - was the hottest for over 500 years. A new study by Peter Stott from the Met Office's Hadley Centre and Daithi Stone and Myles Allen of the University of Oxford used advanced climate models and new statistical techniques to show that although the record-breaking summer might be considered an occasional and entirely natural phenomenon, man-made global warming greatly increases the chance of them occurring.

Peter Stott explains: "We simulated 2003 summer temperatures over Europe - with and without the effect of man's activities - and compared these with observations. We found that although the high temperature experienced in 2003 was not impossible in a climate unaltered by man, it is very likely that greenhouse gases have at least doubled the risk and our best estimate is that such a heatwave is now four times more likely as a result of human influence on climate."

Stott adds: "We know that 2003-type hot summers and associated heatwaves won't happen every year, but continuing man-made global warming will increase the chance. According to our model, by the middle of this century every other summer could be even hotter than 2003." ®

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