Searing heat and raging floods took the world by storm this week, leaving millions around the world in dangerous and deadly conditions. But it’s not a passing streak of bad luck — it’s becoming the new norm.
The heatwaves that are causing record-breaking temperatures, storms that are hitting cities with record-breaking rainfall, and wildfires that are raging across thousands of acres of land are all the effects of one undeniable source: climate change.
Just last week, preliminary data showed the world had its hottest week on record, following the hottest June on record.Recent events are believed to have been the trigger at the time of the onset of warmer sea surface temperatures. However, experts have warned that the current situation will not abruptly disappear when El Niño passes.
“We are in uncharted territory and can expect more records to be broken as El Niño continues to develop and as these effects continue into 2024,” said Christopher Hewitt, director of international climate services at the World Meteorological Organization. “This is worrying news for the planet.”
In a press release Thursday, the WMO pointed to problems including heat waves that caused muggy conditions in areas ranging from the US to North Africa.
“Extreme weather — becoming increasingly common in our warming climate — has significant impacts on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in the press release. “This underscores the increasing urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.”
Here you can find out what the world has experienced in the last few days.
Dangerous heat waves around the world
Heat waves are one of the deadliest hazards that can occur during extreme weather conditions and they occur worldwide.
The US Southwest has been battling extreme heat for days, and on Friday the National Weather Service forecast the “dangerous heat wave” will continue. At least 93 million people in the United States are subject to excessive heat warnings and advisories as of Friday morning as intense heat spreads from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast, the agency said.
In the Southwest, some parts will experience high temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while Texas and Louisiana could experience temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said.
And in Death Valley, which holds the world record for the highest air temperature ever recorded, temperatures close to that temperature are expected. The record was set on July 10, 1913, reaching 134 degrees Fahrenheit. It could reach just under 130 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend, Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel said on Friday, seeing a low of just under 100 degrees.
“This type of heat will continue for at least next week,” the meteorologist said. “Preliminary daily data shows that we exceeded the highest global average temperature on July 3 and have been above that level every day since, setting a new record on July 6.”
Flagstaff, Arizona, is also nearing a record. The NWS expects 95 degrees on Sunday – just 2 degrees below the all-time record set in 1973.
But the extreme heat isn’t unique to the US — Europe faces its own struggle.
Records have been broken in France, Switzerland, Germany and Spain, the European Union’s Earth observation service Copernicus said earlier this week. On Tuesday, satellite images revealed that land surface temperatures, which measure the temperature of the ground, exceeded 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas of Spain.
Spain’s state weather agency said on Friday parts of the country could reach temperatures as high as 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 degrees Fahrenheit). On Thursday it was even warmer, reaching 44.9 degrees Celsius in the village of San Nicolás.
And it’s not over yet. Above average temperatures are expected across the Mediterranean over the next two weeks, according to the WMO, with weekly temperatures set to be up to 5 degrees Celsius above long-term averages.
Canada’s wildfires continue their record-breaking season
Just seven months into 2023, Canada has already faced more than 4,000 wildfires that have burned 9.6 million hectares of land, more than 37,000 square miles. On Thursday, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center reported 906 active fires nationwide, more than half of which are said to be “out of control.”
On July 6, the Canadian government declared that this season was “already the hardest in Canada on record.”
“Current projections suggest this could continue to be an extremely challenging summer for wildfires in parts of the country,” officials said, as projections continue to show “above average fire activity” is a possibility for most of the country. This is due to warm temperatures and persistent drought.
Deadly, record-breaking monsoon
India was inundated by a southwest monsoon on July 2, covering the entire country, the Indian Weather Bureau said. Last week, the country’s capital, New Delhi, was hit, it rained half a foot in a single day. Flash flooding and landslides caused by the rain have killed dozens of people across the country.
Water from the capital’s Yamuna River spilled over its banks this weekon Thursday at 684 feet. The previous record of 681 feet was set in 1978. The record rain and water prompted authorities to urge the 30 million people who live there to stay indoors.
Flash flood hazards of varying degrees continued in many areas of the country on Friday.
Record heat in the oceans
Copernicus said Friday that not only are the land and air subject to extreme heat, but so are the oceans. The service noted that both the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean have seen record-breaking temperatures in recent months.
Citing research institute Mercator Ocean and its own observations, the service said the western Mediterranean was witnessing a “moderate” marine heatwave that “appears to be strengthening”.
“The sea surface temperature anomaly along the coasts of southern Spain and northern Africa was about +5°C above the reference value for the period, indicating escalating heatwave conditions,” Copernicus said on Friday.
The data comes just months after researchers found the oceans have been warming at a rate equivalent to the energy of“every second, 24 hours a day, all year round.” It also comes just days after climate experts issued another warning that sea temperatures have been rising which are “much higher than anything the models predicted”.
NOAA estimates that half of the world’s oceans could be affected by heat waves by September. Typically, only about 10% of the oceans are exposed to such conditions, experts said.
The future of extremes is now the present
The future of extreme weather events that have the potential to devastate billions of people is no longer a distant possibility. It’s happening here and now.
A multitude of experts – from global agencies to national organizations to individual climate experts – have been warning for decades about the impact that warming global temperatures could have on the state of the planet. As temperatures continue to rise around the world – largely due to the burning of fossil fuels – extreme weather events will only intensify.
The effects of such extremes can hardly be overlooked.
In large cities like Chicago, the ground temperatures are so high because of the resulting rise in air temperatureswhen underground materials shift. The heat is deadly too, and officials around the world are warning people about it . Extreme storms swept across the Northeast last weekend by floods and completely destroyed shops and houses. The had severe consequences for across the USA, even as far as Europe.
“It’s only going to get worse,” Hannah Cloke, a climate scientist and professor at Reading University, told Reuters, saying that you can prevent extreme weather conditions from getting worse by reducing greenhouse gases drastically and quickly. Greenhouse gases, mainly released from the burning of fossil fuels, trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing global temperatures.
However, it’s important to be aware, she added, that doing so will only prevent the very worst of consequences.
“We have to be aware that we are caught up in some of these changes now and will continue to break records,” she said.