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COUNTDOWN

CO2 Budget Depletion

How does the Arctic affect

Climate Vulnerability
North America & Caribbean?

The North American continent stretches from the Arctic to the tropics. However, whether fires and heat domes encapsulating the western coast, storms in the tropics or cold freezes in Texas, the effects of an Arctic warming four times faster than the rest of the world are felt throughout the entire continent.

The North American continent has five out of the 20 countries identified as the most at risk of climate related disasters over the decade 2000-2019 (Global Climate Risk Index 2021).

Socio-economic impacts of climate change have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods and wider economies. Read more on our Socio Economic Indicators page. 

As the Arctic snow and ice melts, the sun reflects less energy to space. This causes more radiation–and thus heat–to be absorbed, and consequently, temperatures around the world increase.

Global heating is not the only direction the temperature can swing as a result of a warming Arctic–extreme cold snaps are also possible.

An abnormally warm Arctic region is associated with a meandering jet stream. Waves in the jet stream can block weather systems that have led to prolonged heat domes and drought, both of which have contributed to particularly strong wildfire seasons in the western United States and Canada.

Meandering jet streams can also bring Arctic air to areas unaccustomed to icy weather.

For each degree (Celsius) that the planet warms, the atmosphere is able to hold 7% more moisture. This moisture, especially when combined with warmer oceans, leads to stronger tropical cyclones (IPCC AR6 WG1, 2021).

In addition to causing devastation through salt water intrusion and the flooding of low-lying terrain, sea level rise is another result of Arctic melt that can make storms more perilous.

Greenland, currently the world’s largest source of sea level rise, holds the potential for 7.4m of higher seas. 27cm of this rise is already irreversibly committed due to the destabilisation of the ice sheet (Box et al., 2022).

When salt water encroaches upon new territory, it can seep into fresh water reservoirs, dry crops and flood shallow lands. Higher seas increase storm surges and flooding associated with storms, thereby contributing heavily to economic losses and destruction.

Regional STORIES

[English Below]

Con una temperatura media anual de 27 °C, Panamá es, sin duda, un país cálido. Sin embargo, durante un pico el 9 de mayo de 2023, el mercurio alcanzó los 39,5°C en Guarumal, a tan sólo 0,5°C de la temperatura más alta jamás registrada. En los últimos años, el país ha experimentado olas de calor significativas, que a menudo van acompañadas de sequía.   

El año 2023 no será la excepción. El Canal de Panamá es un motor clave de la economía del país y ofrece servicio a más de 144 rutas marítimas que unen a 160 países. Los envíos a través del Canal aportan 2.500 millones de dólares anuales a la economía panameña. Sin embargo, en 2023 los niveles de agua se encuentran en su punto más bajo desde el inicio del milenio actual, con algunas zonas alrededor del Canal recibiendo sólo el 25% de la lluvia primaveral esperada. La estación lluviosa, que se extiende desde mayo hasta diciembre, ha ofrecido poco respiro, ya que persisten las condiciones secas.   

Las autoridades del Canal han tenido que limitar el número de buques que pueden pasar, así como la carga que pueden transportar, debido al bajo nivel del agua. Algunos buques han tenido que esperar más de dos semanas para pasar. Los largos tiempos de espera, junto con el aumento de los recargos, han provocado un aumento significativo de los costos de transporte. Los costos más elevados y la disminución del transporte y los bienes provocan una ralentización de la cadena de suministro mundial y menos ingresos para la economía local. 

La sequía no sólo tiene importantes repercusiones económicas, sino que también afecta el modo en que se asignan los recursos hídricos en Panamá. Si bien el Canal depende del agua dulce, también hay unos 2 millones de panameños que viven en la Cuenca y dependen de este recurso. La disponibilidad limitada de agua dulce aumenta la presión sobre la Autoridad del Canal para garantizar un suministro adecuado de agua para uso doméstico, así como para el funcionamiento del Canal.  

¿Cuál es el rol del Ártico?  Incluso estando a 8,5°N, Panamá se ve afectada por el deshielo del Ártico. Al derretirse la nieve y el hielo del Ártico, el sol refleja menos energía al espacio. Esto hace que se absorba más radiación -y por tanto calor- y, en consecuencia, aumentan las temperaturas en todo el mundo.  

Otro factor importante de la sequía es El Niño, un patrón cíclico asociado con temperaturas más cálidas del océano y el aire. El Niño se correlaciona con condiciones más secas en todo Panamá y sus países vecinos. Un estudio de 2022 publicado en Nature Communications es el primero que vincula la pérdida del hielo marino en el Ártico con potentes fenómenos de El Niño que tienen consecuencias mundiales. Los modelos muestran que la pérdida del hielo marino puede impulsar el desarrollo de El Niño de varias maneras: una, intensificando un sistema de baja presión frente a Alaska que choca con los vientos alisios; y dos, reduciendo la entrada de aguas tropicales cálidas en las regiones polares más frías, lo que provoca la acumulación de calor en los trópicos.   

A largo plazo, el rol del Canal de Panamá como una importante ruta comercial podría sufrir continuas interrupciones debido a los problemas relacionados al clima. Esta situación subraya lo que está en juego en el plano económico debido al cambio climático y la necesidad de reducir las emisiones mundiales y de adoptar estrategias integrales para adaptarse al cambio climático y mitigar sus efectos. 

English

With an annual average temperature of 27°C, it’s safe to say that warm temperatures are the norm in Panama. However, during a spike on May 9, 2023, the mercury hit 39.5°C in Guarumal, just 0.5°C shy of  the hottest temperature ever recorded. In recent years, the country has experienced some significant heatwaves, which are often accompanied by drought.  

2023 is no exception. The Panama Canal is a key driver of the country’s economy and serves more than 144 maritime routes linking 160 countries. Shipments through the Canal infuse the Panamanian economy with US$2.5 billion annually. In 2023, however, water levels are at their lowest since the start of the current millennium with some areas around the Canal receiving just 25% of expected springtime rain. The ‘wet season’, which officially lasts from May to December, has offered little respite, as dry conditions persist.  

Canal authorities have had to limit the number of ships that can pass as well as the loads they can carry due to low water levels. Some ships have had to wait for over two weeks to pass through. Long waiting times, along with increased surcharges, have resulted in significantly higher shipping costs. Higher costs and fewer transport and goods result in the slowing of the global supply chain and less money entering the local economy.  

Not only does the drought have significant economic impacts, but it also affects how water resources are allocated in Panama. While the Canal relies on freshwater, so too do around 2 million Panamanians living in the watershed. Limited freshwater availability puts more pressure on the Canal Authority to ensure an adequate supply of water for domestic use as well as for the operation of the Canal. 

What is the role of the Arctic?  Even sitting at 8.5°N, Panama is affected by Arctic melt. As Arctic snow and ice melts, the sun reflects less energy to space. This causes more radiation–and thus heat–to be absorbed, and consequently, temperatures around the world increase. 

Another major factor behind the drought is El Niño, a cyclical pattern associated with warmer ocean and air temperatures. El Niño is correlated with drier conditions throughout Panama and its neighbouring countries. A 2022 study published in Nature Communications is the first to link the loss of Arctic sea ice with powerful El Niño events with global consequences. Models show that the loss of sea ice can drive El Niño development in several ways: one, through intensifying a low-pressure system off Alaska that collides with the trade winds; and two, by reducing the influx of warm tropical waters into the cooler polar regions, thereby resulting in the buildup of heat in the tropics.  

In the long term, the Panama Canal’s role as a major trade route could face continued disruptions due to climate-related challenges. This situation underscores the economic stakes of climate change and the need for cutting global emissions and comprehensive strategies to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

Like many island nations, Jamaica is vulnerable to climate change. The challenges faced include sea level rise, extreme weather events such as hurricanes, and food insecurity.  

The coastal community of Jamaica is facing a significant threat from rising sea level, with just over 24% of Jamaicans living within 5km of the coast (OCHA, 2022). Greenland ice melt accounts for nearly half of current global sea level rise (Climate Change Knowledge Centre, 2021), making it the largest single contributor. In total, if melted completely, Greenland’s ice sheet would raise sea levels by 7.4 meters. This makes Arctic warming a large determinator for changes happening around the world, and of particular interest to countries like Jamaica. 

Preparing for sea level rise is particularly challenging, because not only are its effects permanent, and thus different from hurricane preparation, but it magnifies other climate threats. Thus, entirely new community infrastructure and development needs to happen, which can withstand not only higher seas, but also greater storm surges. 

In addition to sea level rise, hurricanes are increasing in frequency and intensity in Jamaica, especially during the hurricane season from June till November. Between 2000 and 2021, 869 thousand people in Jamaica were affected by natural disasters with damages of $1.5 billion occurring in the country across the same period (OCHA, 2022). In 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the country and affected 125 thousand people in the nation (OCHA, 2022).  

The vulnerability of the Small Island Developing States, like Jamaica, to hurricanes stems from their geographic location. Atlantic storms coming from the south are funnelled through the Caribbean before moving up to the Northern Atlantic (Storymaps, n.d.). In fact, 20% of all Category 5 Atlantic cyclones have occurred since 2016, highlighting the increase in strong storms (NOAA 2023). So far, the 2023 Hurricane season has seen several storms, including Idalia and Lee, undergo rapid intensification, which is when a storm gains at least 35pmh in windspeed within 24 hours. Some of this power may stem from the abnormally hot tropical waters, possibly associated with El Niño. 

As the Arctic warms further, increases sea level and temperature could drive hurricanes to become more stronger and more frequent. Up to 9% of regional GDP may be used up by projected hurricane damages in parts of the Caribbean by 2030. 

As one of the most populous members of the co-called Small Island Developing States (SIDS), The Bahamas is affected by climate change. The population of the country is especially vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, as 100% of the population lives within 25km of the coast (OCHA, 2022). According to the Nassau Guardian (2022), an estimated 23,600 people in the Bahamas will be affected by rising seas by 2050.  

Greenland ice melt contributes nearly half of current global sea level rise (Climate Change Knowledge Centre, 2021), making it the largest single source. In total, if melted completely, Greenland’s ice sheet would raise sea levels by 7.4 meters. This makes Arctic warming the largest determinator for changes happening around the world, and is thus of particular interest to the SIDS membership.  

Preparing for sea level rise is particularly challenging, because not only are its effects permanent, and thus different from a situation like hurricane preparation, but it magnifies other climate threats. Thus, entirely new community infrastructure and development needs to happen, which can withstand not only higher seas, but also greater storm surges. 

The Bahamas is subject to a high risk of hurricanes, especially between June and November. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas and is now known as “the strongest Atlantic Hurricane documented to directly impact a landmass” (IFRC, 2023).  As a result of the hurricane, 74 people died, while many homes and public buildings were destroyed. In addition, damages totalling $3.4 billion were reported by the local government (IFRC, 2023). The frequency and severity of hurricanes in the Bahamas continues to get worse because of sea level rise and warming, which is largely driven by change in the Arctic (Storymaps, n.d.). In fact, 20% of all Category 5 Atlantic cyclones have occurred since 2016, highlighting the increase in strong storms (NOAA, 2023). Due to the current El Niño, and the abnormally warm temperatures in the Atlantic, NOAA predicts the hurricane season in the Atlantic region to be above normal, with 2-5 major hurricanes expected (NOAA, 2023). So far, the 2023 Hurricane season has seen several storms, including Idalia and Lee, undergo rapid intensification, which is when a storm gains at least 35pmh in windspeed within 24 hours. Some of this power may stem from the abnormally hot tropical waters, possibly associated with El Niño. The vulnerability of the small island states, like the Bahamas, stem from their geographic location. Atlantic storms coming from the south are funnelled through the Caribbean before moving up to the Northern Atlantic (Storymaps, n.d.). 

As the Arctic warms further, increased sea level and temperature could drive hurricanes to become more stronger and more frequent. Relative to GDP, the cost of disasters in the Caribbean can be six times as expensive as if the same storm were to hit a larger, wealthier region, such as the neighbouring United States (Ötker and Srinivasan, 2018).   

You might already be looking forward to holiday season, including Black Friday and Christmas. However, did you know that thousands of miles away, a severe drought in the Panama Canal is setting off a chain reaction that might just dampen your festivities? 

The Panama Canal, a vital global trade route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, has been at the heart of international commerce since 1914. It serves more than 144 maritime routes linking 160 countries. In 2022, more than 14,000 vessels and nearly 520 million tonnes of cargo travelled through the Panama Canal–the major waterway connecting Asia and the Americas. The Panama Canal has 46% of the total market share of containers moving from Northeast Asia to the East Coast of the United States.  

However, 2023 has been one of the driest years on record in Panama. Unusually high temperatures and the influence of El Niño (associated with warmer ocean and air temperatures) are playing a significant role in this drought. Low water levels have disrupted the smooth flow of goods through the Canal. Ships laden with goods, including your gifts and seasonal delights, are encountering unexpected delays and surcharges.  

The drought has led to unprecedented restrictions along the Panama Canal, including reduced crossings and restrictions on ship loads. This has resulted in delays and extra fees for shipping companies relying on this route, with waiting times of over two weeks for  vessels even meeting the lighter weight limits. The trade slowdown affects global supply chains and increases shipping costs. For instance, sending a 40ft container from China to the US Gulf Coast via the canal on short notice has seen a 36% cost increase. The additional fees incurred are passed on to consumers. These restrictions, set to continue into 2024, are affecting shipping routes essential for peak shopping seasons like Black Friday and Christmas. 

The dry Panama Canal might affect every aspect of your holiday season. Beyond shipping concerns and longer delivery times due to the restrictions, it is likely to also increase prices. Additionally, many fruits and treats that are part of your holiday feasts are sourced from South America and rely on timely passage through the canal.  

As we gear up for the holiday season, let’s remember that the products we enjoy and the traditions we hold dear are all part of a delicate, global web. The Panama Canal drought isn’t just a distant issue, it is a call to action. It’s a reminder that the choices we make and the impacts of climate change are intertwined with our daily lives. By being aware of the largely unseen ripples of this global phenomenon, you can join a collective effort to make a difference. For instance, protest at your local government for carbon cut-down, reduce unnecessary consumption and do not participate in Black Friday deals. Find out more about solutions

(Faites défiler vers le bas pour le texte français)

Eastern Canada and North-Eastern US have been experiencing severe air quality due to smoke coming from wildfires in the provinces of Quebec and Northeastern Ontario.

Canada is currently on track to have its most severe wildfire season ever recorded. Canada’s wildfire season has started off with an unprecedented intensity, surpassing expectations. The amount of acres burned so far (beginning of June 2023) is more than 1400% higher than the usual levels for this time of year. While wildfires are not caused by climate change, the conditions amplifying their intensity and severity, such as heatwaves and prolonged droughts, are closely linked to human-induced changes in the climate. According to Canada’s natural resources agency, climate change may double the acreage burned yearly by wildfires by the end of this century.

A recent study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that heat-trapping emissions from the 88 largest fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers worldwide can be linked to approximately 19.8 million acres of burned forest land. This accounts for 37 percent of the total area scorched by forest fires in the western United States and southwestern Canada since 1986.

Since May, the fires have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The smoke generated by these fires has travelled hundreds of miles, reaching the United States and causing increasingly poor air quality. According to Ashwin Vasan, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the air quality in New York City on Tuesday was the most severe it has been since the 1960s. Currently, the US East coast air quality ranges from unhealthy to hazardous in places like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Based on air quality tracker IQAir, New York City currently even ranks among the world’s cities with the poorest air quality.

Dr. Jennifer Francis, member of Arctic Basecamp Science Advisory Team and Senior Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center explains, “The heavy smoke along the Eastern Seaboard is a symptom of a very wavy jet-stream pattern across North America that is creating a lot of abnormal weather — cool and showery in California, hot and dry in central Canada that’s fueling the wildfires, and a wind flow from the fires south-eastward into the eastern U.S. This basic jet-stream pattern has been in place for much of the winter and spring, creating the persistent storminess along the west coast along with drought in the upper Midwest. Is there a fingerprint of climate change in this unusually wavy pattern? Very possibly. A large oceanic heatwave in the North Pacific Ocean tends to pump the Jetstream northward (ridge) in that area, which leads to a southward dip downstream (eastward) along the west coast, along with another ridge east of that. A very warm Arctic may be amplifying this pattern further, increasing its persistence. The role of the emerging El Nino in all this is yet to be determined, as this combination of factors has never been observed. Buckle up — it could be a wild ride!”

Texte en français

L’est du Canada et le nord-est des États-Unis connaissent actuellement une qualité de l’air préoccupante en raison de la fumée provenant des incendies de forêt dans les provinces du Québec et du nord-est de l’Ontario.

Le Canada est actuellement en passe de connaître la saison des feux de forêt la plus grave jamais enregistrée. La saison des feux de forêt au Canada a démarré avec une intensité sans précédent, dépassant les attentes. Le nombre d’hectares brûlés jusqu’à présent (début Juin 2023) est supérieur de plus de 1400% aux niveaux habituels pour cette période de l’année. Si les incendies de forêt ne sont pas dus au changement climatique, les conditions qui amplifient leur intensité et leur gravité, telles que les vagues de chaleur et les sécheresses prolongées, sont étroitement liées aux changements climatiques provoqués par l’homme. Selon l’Agence canadienne des ressources naturelles, le changement climatique pourrait doubler la superficie brûlée chaque année par les incendies de forêt d’ici la fin du siècle.

Une étude récente menée par l’Union of Concerned Scientists a révélé que les émissions de piégeage de la chaleur des 88 plus grands producteurs de combustibles fossiles et fabricants de ciment du monde peuvent être liées à environ 19,8 millions d’acres de terres forestières brûlées. Cela représente 37% de la superficie totale brûlée par les incendies de forêt dans l’ouest des États-Unis et le sud-ouest du Canada depuis 1986.

Depuis le mois de mai, les incendies ont forcé des dizaines de milliers de personnes à évacuer leur domicile. La fumée générée par ces incendies a parcouru des centaines de kilomètres, atteignant les États-Unis et provoquant une détérioration croissante de la qualité de l’air. Selon Ashwin Vasan, commissaire du département de la santé et de l’hygiène mentale de la ville de New York, la qualité de l’air à New York mardi était la plus mauvaise depuis les années 1960. Actuellement, la qualité de l’air sur la côte est des États-Unis va de malsaine à dangereuse dans des endroits comme New York, Philadelphie et Washington D.C. D’après AirQ, un outil de suivi de la qualité de l’air, la ville de New York se classe même parmi les villes du monde où la qualité de l’air est la plus médiocre.

Jennifer Francis, membre de l’équipe consultative scientifique d’Arctic Basecamp et scientifique principale au Woodwell Climate Research Center, explique: “Les fortes fumées le long de la côte est sont le symptôme d’une configuration très ondulée du courant-jet à travers l’Amérique du Nord, qui crée beaucoup de conditions météorologiques anormales – fraîcheur et averses en Californie, chaleur et sécheresse dans le centre du Canada qui alimentent les incendies de forêt, et un flux de vent des incendies vers le sud-est dans l’est des États-Unis. Cette configuration de base du courant-jet a été en place pendant une grande partie de l’hiver et du printemps, créant des tempêtes persistantes le long de la côte ouest ainsi qu’une sécheresse dans le haut du Midwest. Y a-t-il une empreinte du changement climatique dans cette configuration inhabituellement ondulée? Très probablement. Une importante vague de chaleur océanique dans l’océan Pacifique Nord a tendance à faire remonter le courant-jet vers le nord (dorsale) dans cette région, ce qui entraîne une plongée vers le sud en aval (vers l’est) le long de la côte ouest, ainsi qu’une autre dorsale à l’est de celle-ci. Un Arctique très chaud peut amplifier encore ce schéma, en augmentant sa persistance. Le rôle de l’El Niño naissant dans tout cela reste à déterminer, car cette combinaison de facteurs n’a jamais été observée. Attachez vos ceintures – ça risque d’être une course effrénée!”

(Desplácese hacia abajo para ver el texto en español)

Heat in the summer is nothing new to Texas, but like many aspects of the climate crisis, this historic heat dome is unprecedented. According to Climate Central, the excessive heating throughout the southern United States and Central America was made at least five times more likely to occur now compared with the pre-Industrial era because of human-caused climate change.  

For many, Texas heat is associated with summer. But should it be associated with the Arctic? The persistent and expanding heat dome is once again begging that question. For Dr. Jennifer Francis, a Senior Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, much of the story comes down to the jet stream, and how the warming Arctic drives a specific change in its behavior. 

 According to Dr. Francis, the ongoing debilitating heat wave engulfing Texas and Mexico is due to a stagnant northward bulge in the jet stream in the region. This jet stream is part of an overall very wavy jet stream pattern around most of the Northern Hemisphere. When these wavy patterns form, the weather created by the waves tends to persist for days or even weeks, as is the case with this event.  

 The jet stream gets its speed and stability from being sandwiched between the colder Arctic air and the warmer tropical air. Rapid Arctic warming is offsetting this pattern and offsetting the jet stream’s usual balance and creating these persistent dips.  

 Given the colder temperatures in the north are critical in stabilizing the jet stream, we expect these extreme weather events to occur more frequently, to become more intense, and to last longer as the globe in general — and Arctic in particular — continues to warm.  

 On Wednesday, June 28, Corpus Christi hit 107F (41.6C) with a heat index of 125F (51.6C), and the state’s capital of Austin hit 108F (42.2C) with a heat index of 118F (47.7C). Earlier, Laredo notched 115F (46.1C), just missing the state’s record of 118F. With this wonky jet stream, those numbers are not going to abate quickly. 

 Heat is the primary extreme-weather killer in the United States, and already 13 deaths have been attributed to this one event. Eleven of these deaths occurred in Webb County, a region with higher rates of poverty than the state’s average. Higher rates of poverty in Webb County mean fewer people with heat-safe spaces and air conditioning and more people exposed to the heat through manual labor, which itself is a large climate justice concern. Compounding this is a new state law in Texas. While the United States acknowledges that heat is an occupational hazard, there are no national laws demanding employees have access to water or cool spaces. Effective September 1, many outside workers in Texas will no longer be guaranteed access to water or rest breaks. The health impacts of the heat are expected to add $1 billion in national healthcare expenses. 

 Even those currently safe from the heat are watching the state’s power grid in hopes that they remain safe. This heatwave is coming on the back of a series of sudden storms that left more than 100,000 without electricity, a tornado that took out a substation, and a nuclear plant that went offline due to a broken feed water pump.  

 As reminded by Dr. Francis, it’s not too late to reduce these impacts, but we must rapidly kick our addiction to fossil fuels and stop cutting down forests. Check out arcticrisk.org/solutions to learn more! 

There are currently 243 cooling shelters in Texas and more in neighboring states. To find one near you, dial 2-1-1. 

texto en español: 

El calor en verano no es nada nuevo en Texas, pero como muchos aspectos de la crisis climática, esta ola de calor histórica es sin precedentes. Según Climate Central, el calentamiento excesivo en todo el sur de Estados Unidos y América Central es al menos cinco veces más probable de ocurrir ahora en comparación con la era preindustrial debido al cambio climático causado por el ser humano. 

Para mucha gente, se asocia el calor en Texas con el verano. Pero ¿debería asociarse con el Ártico? La persistente y creciente domo de calor vuelve a provocar esa pregunta. Para la Dra. Jennifer Francis, científica principal en el Woodwell Climate Research Center, gran parte de la historia se relaciona con la corriente en chorro y cómo el calentamiento del Ártico provoca un cambio específico en su comportamiento. 

Según la Dra. Francis, la actual y debilitante ola de calor que afecta a Texas y México se debe a una protuberancia estancada hacia el norte en la corriente en chorro en la región. Esta corriente en chorro es parte de un patrón general de corriente en chorro muy ondulado en la mayor parte del hemisferio norte. Cuando se forman estos patrones ondulados, el clima creado por las ondas tiende a persistir durante días o incluso semanas, como es el caso de este evento.   

La corriente en chorro obtiene su velocidad y estabilidad al estar atrapada entre el aire más frío del Ártico y el aire más cálido del trópico. El rápido calentamiento del Ártico está contrarrestando este patrón y alterando el equilibrio habitual de la corriente en chorro, creando estas depresiones persistentes. 

Dado que las temperaturas más frías en el norte son cruciales para estabilizar la corriente en chorro, esperamos que estos eventos climáticos extremos ocurran con más frecuencia, sean más intensos y duren más tiempo a medida que el mundo en general, y el Ártico en particular, sigan calentándose. 

El miércoles, 28 de junio, Corpus Christi alcanzó los 41.6°C (107°F) con un índice de calor de 51.6°C (125°F), y la capital del estado de Austin llegó a los 42.2°C (108°F) con un índice de calor de 47.7°C (118°F). Anteriormente, Laredo registró 46.1°C (115°F), casi alcanzando el récord del estado de 48.9°C (118°F). Con esta corriente en chorro desequilibrada, esos números no disminuirán rápidamente. 

El calor es la principal causa de muerte por fenómenos climáticos extremos en Estados Unidos, y ya se han atribuido 13 muertes a este evento. Once de estas muertes ocurrieron en el condado de Webb, una región con tasas de pobreza más altas que el promedio estatal. Las tasas más altas de pobreza en el condado de Webb significan que hay menos personas con espacios seguros frente al calor y sistemas de aire acondicionado, y más personas expuestas al calor debido al trabajo manual, lo cual es una gran preocupación en términos de justicia climática. A esto se suma una nueva ley estatal en Texas. Aunque EEUU reconoce que el calor es un riesgo ocupacional, no existen leyes nacionales que exijan que los empleados tengan acceso a agua ni espacios frescos. A partir del 1 de septiembre, muchos trabajadores al aire libre en Texas ya no tendrán garantizado el acceso a agua ni descansos. Se espera que los impactos en la salud debido al calor añadan $1 mil millones en gastos sanitarios en EEUU. 

Incluso aquellos que actualmente están a salvo del calor están vigilando la red eléctrica del estado con la esperanza de mantenerse a salvo. Esta ola de calor viene después de una serie de tormentas repentinas que dejaron a más de 100,000 personas sin electricidad, un tornado que destruyó una subestación y una planta nuclear que se apagó debido a una bomba de agua defectuosa. 

Como nos recuerda la Dra. Francis, aún no es demasiado tarde para reducir estos impactos, pero debemos abandonar rápidamente nuestra adicción a los combustibles fósiles y dejar de talar bosques. ¡Visita arcticrisk.org/solutions para obtener más información! 

Actualmente hay 243 refugios de enfriamiento en Texas y más en estados vecinos. Para encontrar uno cerca de ti, llama al 2-1-1. 

(Desplácese hacia abajo para ver el texto en español)

With an annual average temperature of 27°C, it’s safe to say that Panama is used to hot temperatures. However, during a spike on May 9 2023 the mercury hit 39.5°C in Guarumal, and set a new record for the country’s hottest May day on record, and it was just shy 0.5°C from its hottest temperature ever. 

In recent years, the country has experienced some significant heatwaves. In addition to health and environmental hazards from heat, recent high temperatures have commonly been accompanied by drought. 

Spring 2023 has been no exception. The Panama Canal is the largest economic sector in the country and serves more than 144 maritime routes linking 160 countries. In 2022, more than 14,000 vessels and nearly 520 million tonnes of cargo travelled through the Panama Canal–the major waterway connecting Asia and the Americas, and infusing the Panamanian economy with US$2.5 billion. In 2023, however, water levels are tied with 2019 for the lowest since the start of the current millennium with some areas around the canal having just 25% of expected rainfall in the past few months. Already this year, the canal authorities have had to limit the weight of cargo passing through the canal, meaning the transport of fewer goods, the slowing of the global supply chain and less money entering the local economy. 

The current drought is unlikely to end soon. Levels throughout the 12 locks of the canal are expected to continue to decrease and the impact on the global shipping economy and supply chain are expected to worsen. One major factor for this is that we are predicted to enter an El Niño pattern, which is associated with warmer ocean and air temperatures and is correlated with drier conditions throughout Panama and its neighbouring countries. 

Even sitting at 8.5°N, Panama is affected by Arctic melt. A 2022 study published in Nature Communications is the first to link the loss of Arctic sea ice with powerful El Niño events with global consequences. Models show that the loss of sea ice can drive El Niño development in several ways: one, through intensifying a low-pressure system off the Aleutian Islands that collide with the trade winds; and two, through heat build-up in tropical waters caused from the slowing of warm waters into the cooler polar regions.  

texto en español

Con una media temperatura anual de 27°C, Panamá está acostumbrada al calor. Sin embargo, mayo 9 2023, se produjo un pico en el que el mercurio alcanzó los 39.5°C en Guarumal, estableciendo un nuevo récord para el día de mayo más caluroso registrado en el país, y solo un 0.5°C abajo de su temperatura más alta en la historia registrada. 

En los últimos años, el país ha sufrido algunas olas de calor sustanciales. Además de los riesgos para la salud y el medio ambiente debido al calor, las altas temperaturas recientes han coincidido con sequías.  

Primavera 2023 no ha sido una excepción. El Canal de Panamá es el sector económico más grande del país y sirve a más de 144 rutas marítimas que conectan 160 países. En 2022, más de 14,000 buques y casi 520 millones de toneladas de carga viajaron a través del Canal de Panamá, la principal vía fluvial que conecta Asia y América, y que inyecta a la economía panameña unos 2,500 millones de dólares estadounidenses anualmente. En 2023, sin embargo, los niveles de agua en el canal están iguales a los de 2019, los más bajos desde el comienzo del milenio actual. Algunas áreas alrededor del canal han recibido solo un cuarto de la lluvia prevista en los últimos meses. Este año, las autoridades del canal ya han tenido que limitar el peso de la carga que pase por el canal, lo que significa el transporte de menos bienes, la desaceleración del comercio global y menos dinero entrando en la economía panameña.  

Es improbable que la sequía actual se termine pronto. Se anticipa que los niveles en las 12 esclusas del canal continúen disminuyendo y el impacto en la economía y el comercio global empeore. Uno de los factores principales en esto es que se predice que entraremos en un patrón de El Niño, que se asocia con temperaturas oceánicas y atmosféricas más cálidas y se correlaciona con condiciones más secas en Panamá y sus países vecinos.  

Aunque sea un país tropical, Panamá se ve afectada por el derretimiento del Ártico. Un estudio publicado en 2022 en Nature Communications es el primero en relacionar la pérdida de hielo marino en el Ártico con poderosos eventos de El Niño con consecuencias globales. Los modelos muestran que la pérdida de hielo marino puede impulsar el desarrollo de El Niño de varias maneras: uno, a través de la intensificación de un sistema de baja presión frente a las Islas Aleutianas que choca con los vientos alisios; y dos, a través de la acumulación de calor en aguas tropicales causada por la desaceleración de aguas cálidas en las regiones polares más frías. 

 

 

 

(Faites défiler vers le bas pour le texte français)

A significant heatwave affected much of Canada at the end of April / beginning of May 2023, bringing temperatures more than 10°C above normal. This heatwave is notable for several reasons—notably that it is occurring so early in the season and during a year in which we are expecting an El Niño shift.

El Niño periods are associated with global heating, meaning that the planet is likely to see a new highest temperature later this year or in 2024 as El Niño continues to develop. Professor Adam Scaife of the Met Office highlights that climate change is increasing the power of El Niño events: “You put those two things together, and we are likely to see unprecedented heatwaves during the next El Nino.”

Whilst the May heatwave is unlikely to set new national records, it’s a primer for what could be a very hot summer. Extreme heat sets the stage for hospitalisations, wildfires and crop failures. British Columbia is still reeling from the effects of the 2021 Western North American heatwave, which was the deadliest weather event in Canada during which nearly 1,500 people died . Damage to crops led to an increase in food prices globally, and a new national record was set in the small town of Lytton, BC, which saw the mercury climb to 49.6°C (121.3°F). The following day, 90% of the town was decimated in a wildfire that was fuelled by the hot, dry conditions. The town is still in the process of achieving permissions to rebuild.

This record—the highest in any part of the world north of 45°N–was notably set in the midst of La Niña, a period of global cooling.

 

Cette traduction a été faite en utilisant ChatGPT (05/05/23)

Une vague de chaleur importante a touché une grande partie du Canada fin avril/début mai 2023, entraînant des températures supérieures de plus de 10°C à la normale. Cette vague de chaleur est remarquable pour plusieurs raisons, notamment qu’elle se produit si tôt dans la saison et pendant une année où l’on s’attend à un changement d’El Niño.

Les périodes d’El Niño sont associées au réchauffement planétaire, ce qui signifie que la planète est susceptible de connaître une nouvelle température record plus tard cette année ou en 2024 alors que El Niño continue de se développer. Le professeur Adam Scaife du Met Office souligne que le changement climatique augmente la puissance des événements El Niño : “Vous combinez ces deux éléments, et nous sommes susceptibles de voir des vagues de chaleur sans précédent lors du prochain El Niño”.

Bien que la vague de chaleur de mai ne soit pas susceptible d’établir de nouveaux records nationaux, elle prépare le terrain pour ce qui pourrait être un été très chaud. La chaleur extrême prépare le terrain pour les hospitalisations, les incendies de forêt et les échecs de récoltes. La Colombie-Britannique se remet encore des effets de la vague de chaleur de l’ouest de l’Amérique du Nord de 2021, qui a été l’événement météorologique le plus meurtrier au Canada et a entraîné la mort de près de 1 500 personnes. Les dommages aux cultures ont entraîné une augmentation des prix alimentaires dans le monde entier, et un nouveau record national a été établi dans la petite ville de Lytton, en Colombie-Britannique, où le mercure a grimpé à 49,6°C (121,3°F). Le lendemain, 90% de la ville a été dévastée par un incendie de forêt alimenté par les conditions chaudes et sèches. La ville est encore en train d’obtenir les autorisations pour reconstruire.

Ce record, le plus élevé dans n’importe quelle partie du monde au nord de 45°N, a été établi de manière remarquable au milieu de La Niña, une période de refroidissement global.

During winter months, another ring of strong west winds encircles a pool of extremely cold air that sits over the high latitudes like a “spinning top” over the North Pole – this is the stratospheric polar vortex (Erdenesanaa, 2022). Occasionally this vortex can become disrupted and either elongated or broken into smaller swirls. When this happens, it can alter the behaviour of the jet stream, such as unusually large southward dips, bringing severe cold events to North America and/or Eurasia, sometimes simultaneously. 

Recent research suggests these disruptions to the vortex are happening more often in connection with a rapidly warming and melting Arctic, which we know is a clear symptom of climate change. This means that cold spells may occur more frequently and trigger particularly long-lived events in regions unaccustomed to disruptive cold (Cohen et al., 2021), unless we can curtail our emissions of heat-trapping gases dramatically and quickly.

For example, the cold blast of February 2021 that brought Texas to a standstill saw temperatures 22.4°C below normal (Erdenesanaa, 2022). Temperature records were broken throughout the state, including lows in Austin (-14.4°C), Dallas (-13.3°C) and Houston (-12.2°C) (FERC, 2021). Beyond the extreme temperatures, Texas recorded nearly 150 deaths and more than US$20billion in damages (Henson, 2021).

On the link between Arctic warming and mid-latitude cold snaps: “The Texas cold blast of February 2021 is a poster child.” 

-Dr Jennifer Francis, Woodwell Climate Research Center (Borenstein, 2021).

Such extreme winter weather events linked to stratospheric polar vortex disruptions – associated with  Arctic change in sea ice and snow cover in fall – highlight the need for (innovations in) forecasting and early warning systems in local and regional disaster risk reduction efforts (Arctic Risk Briefing, 2021).

As in recent years, 2022 brought more drought and powerful wildfires to California and other western U.S. states.

Following a rainy autumn in 2021, January and February initiated the driest spring on record (Dress, 2022). By February, the cumulative drought over the past year throughout the southwestern region had been described as the worst in 1,200 years (Fountain, 2022).

Still on-going, the 2022 wildfire season, which began abnormally early in January with the Colorado Fire near Big Sur, has seen a higher number of fires than the average of the past five years. The lack of rain and snowmelt that typically hydrates the land and mitigates fire seasons has also led to water and food insecurity.

Currently, California is preparing for a hotter, drier future and one with fewer water stores and greater fires (California Water Supply Strategy, 2022). 

“The heat spells another round of dangerous fire weather for California and much of the West, which has already smashed past previous records for burning; more than 5.8 million acres have gone up in flames already this year.” (Borunda, 2020).

“Five of the ten largest fires in California history are currently burning” (McKibben, 2020).

 

Like some other Caribbean islands, Barbados is formed largely from corals and limestone, which means it is naturally very permeable, and therefore, susceptible to water seepage.

As sea levels rise, this inherent permeability means that the country’s freshwater supply is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion (Mounsey, 2019). Already dealing with water insecurity, this intrusion further limits available water for drinking and irrigation, causing Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, to say, “I don’t call it climate change. It’s change for those who are not affected by the crisis. For us, it’s a crisis” (United Nations, 2021).

Water scarcity is not the only consequence of rising seas that Barbados experiences. Although not typically in the path of Caribbean hurricanes, Barbados faces storm surges and flooding from nearby hurricanes, both of which are worsened with rising seas.

Similarly, the Scotland district in the east of the country experiences regular landslides, the consequence of higher seas seeping into, and disintegrating the fragile rock. Rising seas, she notes, are “measured in lives and livelihoods,” and a 2°C warming would be a “death sentence” to her country (UN Climate Change, 2021). 

The Caribbean and parts of North America are currently in the midst of the 2022 hurricane season, which saw Ian undergo rapid intensification from a tropical storm to a Category 4 storm over just a few days, leaving the western coast of Florida particularly unprepared for impact.

Across Cuba and the United States, damages exceeded US$67.2 billion. Just prior to Ian, the Fiona became the most northerly Category 4 Atlantic storm, bringing rain as far north as Greenland (Burg, 2022). Damage ranged from country-wide blackouts in Puerto Rico and water supply issues that left 400,000 without power (OCHA, 2022) to widespread outages throughout the Canadian maritimes (NPR, 2022). 

Other devastating hurricanes to strike the Caribbean in recent years include Matthew (Category 4, 2016), Maria (Category 5, 2017), and Dorian (Category 5, 2019).

Maria became the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico and caused island-wide blackouts and 4,600 deaths (Washington Post, 2018). After 7 months, 62,000 people on the island remained without power (World Vision, 2018a).

Matthew dramatically impacted Haiti with 546 estimated fatalities (World Vision, 2018b), 175,000 displaced individuals and 330,000 children out of school (OCHA, 2016) – its damages paralleled the 2010 earthquake. In addition to the effects of the hurricane, the island experienced food insecurity and rising cholera rates (Ibid.).

Cumulatively, US$27 billion was recorded in damages and losses in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean between 2000-2017 (LaCorbiniere, 2022). Projected damages from inland flooding due to tropical storms, storm surges, and winds could reach 9% of regional GDP by 2030 (Ibid.).

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ARCTIC RISK INDICATORS

The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
13 million l/s
on average
13 million tonnes/s
on average
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
485,500 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 12-Apr-2024
187,451 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 12-Apr-2024
Arctic Amplification
4 times
faster than global average
Arctic 66N+ Wildfire emissions
0.00 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2024 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
3.69 microgram per cubic meter
on 13-Apr-2024
Global mean Sea Level
3.4mm/year
since 1993