Barry Lynn
Intersection of Science and Policy

It really is hotter

My wife is complaining: “When is this heat going to end?”

“Do something,” she tells me.

When two people marry, they sometimes have unrealistic expectations. I thought that my wife would be a really good putter-together. I was really pleased about this because, while my dad is really good at just about everything, I am not. She thought I could make the sun shine and the rain fall from the sky.

Well, I have failed miserably to meet her simple expectation (or is that expectations?).

Regardless, it is hot, and it’s going to stay hot for the next week. Fortunately, for us, it’s just a bit extra hot (temperatures in the low to mid-30s in most places), but other countries or places are sweltering, and sweltering is a bit of an understatement.

In the Washington Post, it’s reported that “Dueling heat waves — across Texas and the South, and in the Pacific Northwest to northern Plains — are about to join forces to deliver the hottest stretch of weather this year to the central Plains and parts of the Midwest.” In Europe, an intense heatwave is poised to bring record breaking temperatures again.  Professor Colin Price of the Porter School of Environment and Earth  Sciences” wrote on a WhatsApp chat: “This could be worse than August 2003, when more than 70,000 extra deaths occurred in Europe in an 11 day period!” The extreme heat is associated in both cases with what is described as a “heat dome.” Or, as we wrote last time: strong high pressure leads to strong surface heating, which then dries out the surface, leading to more surface heating, which reinforces the strength of the heat dome. The warmer the air (i.e., global warming), the greater the potential for these feedbacks to occur.

In what used to be relatively “tame” Canada, authorities are racing to evacuate 20,000 residents of Yellowknife Canada because of a wildfire; this is after the wildfire disaster in Maui Hawaii. While no particular wildfire can be attributed to climate change, warmer temperatures and drier humidity can make them more frequent and more intense.  In Canada, there are more than 500 out of control fires; wildfires in Canada have burned more area than 3 times the size of Belgium.

As seen in the short featured video, more and more of the world is covered by extreme temperatures. While the global warming naysayers will say that the world was hot back in the 1930s, at that times about 2% of the world was covered with extreme temperatures, in contrast to more than 20% of the world now (compared to the base period 1951-1980).

If there is any silver lining, The New York Times is reporting that the transition to renewable energy sources is going much faster than thought possible.  For instance: “Wind and solar power are breaking records, and renewables are now expected to overtake coal by 2025 as the world’s largest source of electricity.”   While the road to sustainability is not easy, it seems that there is now enough political will power to try to slow the global warming freight train — before summertime becomes a time to fear instead of vacation.

About the Author
Dr. Barry Lynn has a PhD in Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences. He has an undergraduate degree in Biology. He is a researcher/lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is the CTO of Weather It Is, LTD, a weather forecasting and consulting company.
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