Record-Breaking Heatwaves Sweep Across the Globe, Indicating Alarming Climate Trends
London — Unprecedented heatwaves are scorching regions across the world, reinforcing the alarming climate change predictions made by scientists. The United States, the United Kingdom, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are all experiencing extreme heat, with soaring temperatures shattering long-standing records.
In Texas and parts of the southwest US, a searing heatwave has left over 120 million Americans under some form of heat advisory, accounting for more than a third of the total population. Meanwhile, the UK witnessed its hottest June ever, with temperatures surpassing the previous record set in 1940 by a significant 0.9 degrees Celsius.
The scorching conditions are not limited to these regions alone. North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are also grappling with unprecedented hot weather. As a result, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reported that June 2023 was the hottest month on record globally.
Contrary to expectations, the relentless heat has not abated. The EU Climate and weather service, Copernicus, revealed that the past week witnessed the three hottest days ever recorded. On July 4, the global average temperature surpassed 17 degrees Celsius for the first time, reaching a staggering 17.04 degrees Celsius. Preliminary data suggests that this record was further surpassed on July 5, with temperatures reaching 17.05 degrees Celsius.
These extreme temperatures align with climate models’ predictions, as emphasized by Professor Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office and the University of Exeter. He affirms that these high global temperatures should come as no surprise, underscoring the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While air temperature is often the primary focus, it is crucial to recognize that most of the heat stored near the Earth’s surface resides in the oceans. Consequently, the world has witnessed remarkable ocean temperature increases during spring and summer. The North Atlantic, in particular, is currently experiencing the highest surface water temperatures ever recorded. Coastal areas in the UK have witnessed temperatures exceeding the seasonal average by up to 5 degrees Celsius.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classified this event as a Category 4 heatwave, a designation rarely used outside of tropical regions, signifying “extreme” heat. Professor Daniela Schmidt from the University of Bristol describes these North Atlantic temperatures as unparalleled. Simultaneously, an El Niño event is developing in the tropical Pacific, further contributing to global sea surface temperature records for April and May, dating back to 1850.
According to Professor Tim Lenton, an expert on climate change at Exeter University, warmer ocean temperatures lead to higher air temperatures. The majority of the additional heat trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the surface ocean but can resurface due to ocean currents like El Niño, releasing significant heat into the atmosphere and driving up air temperatures.
While it may be tempting to perceive this intense heat as an anomaly, the unfortunate truth is that it has become the new normal due to climate change. Continuous growth in greenhouse gas emissions, though slightly slower, persists year after year. Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by nearly 1% in the previous year alone, as reported by the International Energy Agency.
Climatologist Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College London emphasizes that higher global temperatures elevate the risk of more frequent, intense, and prolonged heatwaves. She warns that these heatwaves would not be as extreme without the influence of global warming.
Experts are already predicting that 2023 could become the hottest year on record due to the developing El Niño. Concerns arise that this occurrence might temporarily push global warming beyond the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold. However, unless substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions occur, temperatures will continue to rise.
The Met Office recently stated that man-made climate change doubled the likelihood of recording record-breaking June temperatures this year. The escalating temperatures have already triggered irreparable changes in ecosystems worldwide. In the UK, the June heatwave caused unprecedented fish deaths in rivers and canals. Professor Schmidt warns that the current marine heatwave’s impact on the UK remains uncertain but points to other regions, such as Australia and the Mediterranean, where entire ecosystems have undergone transformations, resulting in the disappearance of kelp forests and starvation of seabirds and whales.
Humanity finds itself in a race against time. While the path to a hotter and more unpredictable climate is seemingly inevitable, technological advancements and emission reduction tools offer a chance to curb these trends. The question now lies in whether society can swiftly implement these measures to slow down the climate crisis and mitigate its impacts within manageable boundaries.