The Heat Waves Keep on Coming and Are Getting Worse
Fargo, North Dakota, heated up to 106 degrees on July 5, one of the hottest ever on record. It was not alone.
That the Earth is getting hotter than ever is not in dispute (except perhaps in an ivory tower somewhere on the White House grounds). What has made this year’s temperatures more notable is not just the magnitude of the heat, but also how widespread it is.
As of late May 2017, the same extreme bands of heat hit simultaneously across the southwestern United States (California, Nevada and Arizona), in Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and south-central Asia. In doing so, it blew out past temperature records across all those regions, with numbers as much as two degrees Fahrenheit hotter than anything before.
Among the records was the 128.3o F heat recorded in Turbat, Pakistan. It was a value so hot it will go down – for a year at least – as the warmest May temperature ever recorded anywhere on Earth. On a country basis, Pakistan and Oman tied their previous all-time highs, while Norway, Iran and Austria hit new highs never previously observed in those countries.
In June the heat wave continued. Vietnam reached a temperature of 108o F on June 4th, the highest ever for the Hanoi Region. Then on June 29 the village of Turbat, Pakistan, reached an official temperature of 126o F It too was a record, the highest-ever June value recorded anywhere in Asia. The high heat is also behind why in the middle of June Portugal had one of its worst-ever forest fires, Siberia had many fires burning simultaneously, and Chile experienced its worst forest fires in history.
According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, a German think-tank which studies climate change and its impacts, among other things, this is only the beginning of our collective superheating nightmare. According to the Institute’s Stefan Rahmstorf in a recent interview, by 2040 – the same time a child born today will be graduating from college – “we will see about 12 times more monthly heat records than in a stable climate, not just five times as in recent years”.
The reason, Rahmstorf went on, is not just the presence of greenhouse gas emissions like CO2. It is that the carbon dioxide increase is actually slowing the jet stream. Doing so makes the stream more wavy, which then helps drive massive heat waves across a region. In time, unless global warming somehow hits a brick wall well below the Paris Climate Agreement target of 2 degrees Celsius, “large parts of Spain and Portugal will turn into desert”. Related predictions point to the uninhabitability of major areas of the Middle East in only a handful of years, as even the temperatures in the shade will be too hot for a human being to withstand simply by sweating alone to cool them.
Of special concern, in a recent study by the World Meteorological Organization, are the increasing breaking of high temperature records at high elevations, such as what happened in the Alps already this summer. With the mountains warmer, once well-protected glaciers will begin to melt, which will speed further climate impacts rapidly.
It is not clear how to get the attention of the leaders of the world and those running the U.S. executive branch, most of whom are unintelligent sociopaths who can't see past their own personal short-term enrichment by corporate criminal sponsors.