Why extreme heatwaves are sweeping across the globe

Published : 25 Jul 2023 08:30 PM

As I scrolled through my Twitter news feed the other day, a bizarre story caught my eye. Death Valley National Park in California was about to see record breaking temperatures, reaching as high as 128 degrees Fahrenheit or 53.3 degrees Celsius. That wasn’t the bizarre part however (only the scary bit). What stunned me was that tourists had flocked to the place to take selfies with a digital thermometer that is there in a part of the park known as Furnace Creek. According to the newspaper ‘USA Today’, Furnace Creek previously recorded the hottest-ever temperature on Earth at 134 degrees Fahrenheit or 56.6 degrees Celsius in July 1913.

Perhaps it’s a telling commentary on the times we live in that even during moments of great despair, the first thing many people think of doing is taking a selfie! Never mind that these temperatures could actually kill us.

According to ‘The New York Times’, an airport in Iran hit an unbelievable 66.7 degrees Celsius at 12:30pm last Sunday on the heat index, which measures how hot it really feels outside based on humidity and temperature. These are, very simply, unliveable conditions.

Over the last week, over 100 million people in the United States alone have been living with intense heatwave warnings, which are not going away anytime soon. The story is not much different in large parts of Europe, where temperatures have been well into the late 30s and 40s across several tourist hot spots.

Italy’s health ministry issued hot weather red alerts for 20 of the country’s 27 cities with temperatures expected to cross well above 40 degrees Celsius. Spain, France, Germany and Poland have all seen extreme heatwave conditions with more to come.

Greece actually had to shut down the Acropolis of Athens, one of it’s top tourist attractions, for some days. Animals in Rome’s Zoo are being fed frozen food to help keep them cool. Greece, Spain and Switzerland are battling wildfires. It doesn’t help that this in peak tourist season in Europe.

Experts say the new heatwave has been amplified by climate change, with the UN weather agency predicting that temperatures in Europe could break the 48.8-degree Celsius record set in Sicily two years ago. According to the Associated Press news agency, scientists say there is a good chance that 2023 will go down as the hottest year on record, with measurements going back to the middle of the 19th century.

Was trying to recall why this global #heatwave visualisation seemed so eerily familiar…then it hit me: reminiscent of a hothouse version of the graphic sequence from 2004 cli-fi movie, The Day After Tomorrow.

A new study by scientists from five prominent American universities in the scientific journal PNAS paints that terrifying picture of what we can expect over the next few decades- at least a fifth of the planet will witness boiling heatwaves, droughts and people will struggle to breathe as the air is filled with smoke.

This is expected to happen twice a year lasting at least 25 days each. The scientists say the recent weather events we are all seeing are actually just the beginning.

It is not just individuals who are affected by extreme temperatures. Heatwaves have a huge impact on the economy, damaging infrastructure, livestock, causing water shortages, affecting electricity and drinking water supply as well as causing food shortages. The consequences are devastating. Reports suggest that extreme heat has already had a negative impact on economic growth in Europe, lowering it by up to 0.5 per cent over the past decade.

Only a few months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the IPCC had warned that the world was still not doing enough to rein in global temperatures from breaching the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold despite there being “multiple, feasible and effective options” to do so. It is clear that pledges to tackle climate change are simply not working and the weather events we are seeing now are clearly a climate emergency. Developed nations led by the United States have failed to take the lead. This is not something that will hit us decades or centuries later.

It is happening NOW and we need to wake up before it’s too late.

Nidhi Razdan is an award-winning Indian journalist. She has extensively reported on 

politics and diplomacy.

Source: Gulf News