It is commonly said that climate change will adversely impact developing nations more than wealthy countries, however a spate of extreme heat reveals that no one is immune. There have been a number of heat waves across much of the Western world of late. Most notably we have seen high levels of heat in the Arctic, Western North America and Western Europe. These events are noteworthy because sustained periods of heat are a tangible way to communicate the impacts of climate change.
These heat waves are in addition to the devastating heat waves in India and Pakistan. The June heat wave in Pakistan caused the deaths of more than 1,400 people and a preceding heat wave in India killed 2,500 people in May.
Also in May the most northern state in the US experienced record breaking heat. On May 23 Eagle, Alaska hit 91 degrees Fahrenheit, marking the earliest 90-degree day in state history. The same day Fairbanks, Alaska recorded a temperature of 86 degrees. Even the town of Bettles in the Arctic Circle, recorded a temperature of 82. The unseasonable heat lasted for almost ten days. Anchorage recorded its warmest April on record.
In both January 2014 and January 2015 Alaska experienced record breaking heat, and this extreme weather has continued into the spring and summer of 2015. Heat in the Arctic is nothing new, climate change has been causing the area to warm faster than any other region on Earth. This finding was reiterated in a recent report from the Department of Energy’
What is worse, this warming trend is expected to accelerate.
Currently western North America is suffering its own heat wave that is breaking records and causing fast spreading wildfires. In the last couple of weeks hundreds of records have been set or tied across the US. Almost 50 monthly records were set in the month of June.
From California up to British Columbia people in the western portion of North America are feeling the heat. The town of Cranbrook, BC set an all-time high temperature record of 98 degrees Fahrenheit and Revelstoke, BC saw a high temperature of 103 degrees.
Wildfires extend up through western Canada into Alaska and huge plumes of smoke are visible as far away as Tennessee. Computer models predict that the heat will be around for a while in what is being called a “heat dome” over the west. The heat dome is exacerbating drought stricken regions of the west and creating ideal wildfire conditions.
A number of all time record high temperatures were recorded at the end of June including several on June 28th. Chief Joseph Dam, Washington set a new record at 113 degrees Fahrenheit and Chelan did the same with a 110 degree reading. The state of Washington set a state record for June 28 with a high temperature of 113-degrees in Walla Walla.
Even places not known for record breaking heat set records on June 28. Idaho set a new all-time state high temperature record, when Lewiston reached 111 degrees and Montana also broke records with triple digit readings.
South America also saw record-breaking temperatures in June. For example the Colombian city of Urumitia setting a national June record with a high of 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit on June 27.
Western Europe is also smashing records as it contends with a heat wave of its own. Britain recorded its hottest July day ever at 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit and Paris recorded its second hottest day ever at 103.4. Previously, Spain set a new record for June with a reading of 103.5.
The heat in western Europe has resulted in massive power demand that caused a widespread power failure in France.
A recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that 75 percent of the world’s extremely hot days can be attributed to climate change. Global warming increases the probability of extreme heat so the temperatures we are seeing are consistent with what we can expect from a world ravaged by climate change. As always it is difficult to attribute individual heat waves to climate change but we do know with certainty that extreme heat is more common in a world experiencing the effects of global warming.
At Least 30 Years of Above Average Temperatures
Heat Records Tell the Story of Climate Change
2014 is the Hottest Year in Recorded History
How Much Heat is Required to Spur Global Action?
Record Breaking Heat Suggests Accelerated Warming
Interactive Map – Summer Heat in the US
June’s Record Breaking Heat and the Global Warming Trend
Freak Weather: Alaska is Warmer than Alabama
James Hansen’s 2012 Research Linking Global Warming and Extreme Weather
In the US 2012 is The Hottest Most Extreme Year in Recorded History
Globally 2012 is One of the Hottest Years on Record