Every alarm bell on Earth is ringing
According to Prof Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, without human-caused climate change, we may have had balmy days and thunderstorms. With, however, we have deadly heat waves and disastrous flooding.
By layering a northern hemisphere summer and an El Niño year on top of climate change, the entire hemisphere is screaming. “We’re seeing temperatures exceed those that can support life,” said Dr. Jennifer Francis, a scientist with Arctic Basecamp and the Woodwell Climate Research Center.
Death Valley has been primed to break the highest confirmed temperature of the modern era as the heat dome over the American southwest continues to intensify. Off the American southeastern coast, ocean temperatures around Florida are reaching hot tub levels, sparking fears of coral and marine ecosystem die-offs. In southern Europe, the ‘Cerberus’ heatwave has pushed temperatures toward the all-time continental record of 48.8C set in Sicily in 2021. Morocco and Algeria recorded the hottest temperatures in northern Africa, with the Moroccan city, Benni Mellal, clocking 47.5°C, and Biskra, Algeria topping out at 48.0°C. Farther east, China has opened air-raid shelters to serve as cooling centers, as heat waves affect the fourth continent in the northern hemisphere.
Other areas of the planet, such as those caught in some of the low-pressure systems, however, might be wishing for some of this dry heat–in moderation. The Northeastern United States has been gripped in torrential downpours, which have led to deadly flooding in places like Vermont. In Europe, the low pressure systems have so far spared the UK from smashing many of its temperature records and led to flood warnings throughout Scotland.
Meanwhile, eastern Canadian wildfires are still spewing toxic smoke into the atmosphere and creating hazardous air throughout much of North America and into the atmosphere of Europe. Fires throughout Siberia have triggered a state of emergency. Forests around the world are transitioning from being carbon sinks to carbon emitters. The past 12 days have been the hottest in at least 125,000 years. The last eight years cumulatively have been the hottest on record, and June 2023 was 2.5F warmer than June of 150 years ago.
Penn State scientist, Dr. Michael E Mann, recently compared the jet stream to a Van Gogh painting–a parallel capturing the chaos of our planetary systems. The air current’s wavy pattern is blocking weather systems, forming lasting heat domes and torrential downpours. One of the key drivers of this wonky jet stream is an exponentially warming Arctic, where temperatures are increasing four times the global average. This is because the jet stream gains its strength, in part, by being sandwiched between colder polar air and warmer tropical air.
While this summer’s weather might feel extreme, if we continue to pump record levels of emissions into the atmosphere, what seems extreme this year will seem moderate next. Check out our Solutions page to find out what we must do to respond.
Image: This image was originally posted to Flickr by Pierre Markuse at https://flickr.com/photos/24998770@N07/52913795290. It was reviewed on 21 May 2023 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.