Thursday, July 18, 2019

Heat Waves and the Climate Crisis

The climate crisis is here and its hot. If you think things are bad today they will get a lot worse if we continue with business as usual. Heatwaves are being amplified by a rise in global temperatures. They are already becoming more frequent and severe and they will only get worse if we fail to act. We have amassed a vast store of data that proves conclusively that the world is getting warmer. Heatwaves are 4 degrees Celsius hotter than they were a century ago and the heatwaves hitting Europe are more frequent and more severe.

On average the 20 warmest years since 1880 have all been within the past 22 years. The years 2015-2018 make up the top four, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This was a record breaking Spring and early summer in Canada. Globally, last month was the hottest month of June in recorded history and Europe suffered through a record breaking heatwave at end of June.

Dr Friederike Otto, of the University of Oxford, said: "This is a strong reminder again that climate change is happening here and now. It is not a problem for our kids only."

As reported by the Guardian, attribution studies suggest heat waves are much more likely and severe due to climate change. "There have been more than 230 attribution studies to date around the world and these have found that 95% of heatwaves were made more more likely or worse by climate change. For droughts, 65% were definitely affected climate change, while the figure for floods was 57%."

Global heat records are being set five times as often today as they would in a stable climate. "Heat waves are on the rise," Stefan Rahmstorf, a climatologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said. "This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil, and gas," Rahmstorf, told the Associated Press.

In about three decades, London's climate will feel a lot like Barcelona's, including severe droughts, Madrid will feel more like Marrakesh, Morocco; Seattle will feel like San Francisco; and New York will feel like Virginia Beach, Virginia. These predictions come from a study that estimated 77 percent. of cities around the world will see their climate conditions change drastically.

Scientist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, said: "If the observed trend in heatwaves continues, [even] at the Paris goal of 2C of warming a heatwave like this will be the norm in June. Both observations and models show a strong trend towards stronger heatwaves. However, the observed trend is stronger than the modeled one, and we do not yet know why." We have already seen warming of 1 degree Celsius.

Europe's heatwave at the end of June 2019 was caused by a mass of hot air coming from the Sahara Desert and as with the extreme heat recorded in Canada an anomalous jet stream is being implicated.

The increasing prevalence and severity is heat waves is a direct corollary of climate change. Studies predict that deadly heat waves are going to become far more common and far more serious than they are today. As reported by NBC News, Steve Vavrus, a senior scientist at the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that although the situation is perilous there is still time to do something about it.

"Everywhere is vulnerable and we’re starting to load the dice more with slow-moving and meandering jet stream patterns," Vavrus said. "Extreme weather events are becoming the new normal and they are lasting longer than they have in the past."

Vavrus explained that reducing the world’s carbon emissions would slow global warming and return the jet stream to its more typical speed and pattern. In the absence of consorted action to reduce emissions, extreme weather like heat waves may prove to be among the biggest problems we face in the coming decades.

Related
Warming Temperatures are an Urgent Warning
The Warming Temperature Trend Continues Despite Trump
Decades of Hot Data: The Harbingers of an Impending Climate Catastrophe

No comments: