For the first time on record, Britain experienced temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius — 104 Fahrenheit — on Tuesday, as a heat wave moved northwest. This heat wave is leaving a trail of wildfires, lost lives and evacuated homes across Europe. The continent is extremely ill-equipped to deal with the extreme weather.
Britain is far from the only country suffering from the heat wave. France saw severe wildfires. 2,000 firefighters battled fires that have burned nearly 80 square miles of parched forest in the Gironde area of the country’s southwest.
Spain, Italy and Greece also endured major wildfires. In London, a series of grass fires erupted around the capital on Tuesday afternoon, burning several homes.
At least 34 places broke the old British record for heat on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, the national weather service, including at least six that reached 40 Celsius. Scotland broke its old record of 32.9, with temperatures of 34.8 in Charterhall.
Network Rail, which operates the country’s rail system, issued a “do not travel” warning for trains that run through areas covered by a “red” warning issued by the Met Office. The red zone covered an area stretching from London north to Manchester and York. Several train companies canceled all services running north from the capital.
Forecasters across Europe are predicting the temperatures will cool down midweek. In Britain, some showers are expected, and temperatures are forecast to lower, staying below 80 Fahrenheit in most of the country on Wednesday.
Ground breaking temperatures are hitting Argentina as they experience an unprecedented heat wave. Ground temperatures got above 129 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). This heat caused widespread blackouts.
The air temperatures, although cooler, are still suffocating in many areas. Temperatures rose to 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit (41.5 degrees Celsius) in Buenos Aires, the second-highest reading in the city in more than 100 years of records. Other parts of the country saw temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat was so severe in Argentina on Tuesday that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia.
Infrastructure is not being able to protect people in Argentina as temperatures surge. Around 700,000 people were without power for hours on Tuesday afternoon. The city’s electric providers blamed increased demand from cooling during the heatwave. The agency that provides drinking water also asked residents to take conservation measures, saying that its purification system was affected during the outage.
Climate change is a key ingredient in these severe heat waves. The planet has warmed roughly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since the world began burning fossil fuels. That seeming small rise has majorly shifted the odds toward more extreme heat.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Sept. 24 announced that they will establish a federal workplace heat standard. They will hold heat inspections and enforce rules that protect workers from heat related hazards.
In 2020, 882 emergency visits were caused by heat-related illnesses. Of those 882 patients, 44 were hospitalized.
Heat-related illnesses and stresses can affect both workers who work outside and indoors. This is because of issues like lack of air conditioning or fans in some workplaces.
An investigation by Politico and E&E News found that federal workplace safety officials have refused to set a workplace heat standard across nine presidential administrations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended OSHA write heat-specific protections in 1975.
This problem is going to get worse as climate change raises temperatures, especially in the summer. This past July was the warmest month on record. A study recently published found that children born today will likely experience, on average, seven times as many heat waves as their grandparents.
OHSA said area directors will begin prioritizing inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses, and initiate onsite investigations where possible.
President Joe Biden met with governors from Western states on Wednesday to discuss the record-breaking heat wave their states face this summer. He said climate change is what is driving the increased threat of wildfires on the coast.
Governors from California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming met with the president. Portland, Oregon, set a record-high temperature three days in a row this week. Seattle, Washington, also saw high temperatures, hitting 108 degrees, eight below Portland’s high. The heat is causing some medical emergencies and sudden deaths in states, according to CNN.
This was the first meeting of its kind, however, there are annual meetings between the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and presidents to discuss the Atlantic hurricane season. The wildfire season this year is shaping up to be devastating. Biden said the states are “playing catch-up” when it comes to counteracting these fires and their root causes, calling the area “under-resourced.”
The National Interagency Fire Center estimated more than 1 million acres in Western states have burned already this year.
At the meeting, Biden announced his plans to create an incentive program for firefighters to improve recruitment and retention. The administration also plans to expand the federal government’s wildfire prevention and response.
Iowa Mesonet found that temperatures at 8 AM and 12 PM on Monday also reached an all-time hourly high for the state on the 131 year record. A cold front swept across the state Monday night, causing temperature highs to drop to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Des Moines on Tuesday.
Record high temperatures have come with an uptick of catastrophic weather events worldwide. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in the statement, “We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius [122 degrees F] in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.”
Temperatures in December and January will determine whether 2017 is the second or third warmest year on record.
The LA Dodgers, who won the game 3 to 1, might have owed something to the heat. High heat has been proven to have an effect on the distance a ball travels across the field. The University of Nevada-Reno’s Department of Math & Science put together a chart spanning analyzing the average number of home runs per game and the average distance of a batted ball, taking the temperatures of each game into account. After sifting through data from World Series games played between 2000-2011, they found that when the heat of a game spiked beyond 75 (the determined average temperature for an MLB game), home runs for any given team increased by an average of 2, while batted ball distance increased by roughly 2ft, suggesting that heat has a tangible effect on offensive play.
The analysis includes data for nearly 30,000 cities and towns of various sizes from across the continental U.S. Each graph provides two possible outcomes: one in which greenhouse gas emissions continue as usual and one in which they are moderately curtailed.
Researchers based their projections on aggregated data from 21 global climate models.
At present, Des Moines experiences an average of zero days per year when the actual temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. According to this study, the city will likely see 15 days annually that exceed the temperature threshold in 2050 and up to 30 per year in 2100.
This week’s On The Radio segment describes how climate change will have a disproportionate economic impact on urban areas.
Transcript: A recent study by an international group of economists found that climate change will likely cost cities twice as much as rural areas.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that the largest quarter of the world’s cities could see more intense temperature spikes by 2050 due to the combined effect of global warming and urban heat island effects. Urban heat islands are formed when naturally cooling surfaces like vegetation and bodies of water are replaced by surfaces that trap heat like concrete and asphalt.
Higher temperatures in cities have negative economic impacts including less productive workers, higher cooling costs for buildings and poorer water and air quality. On average, the global gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to drop by 5.6 percent by 2100 due to climate change. The combined climate change and heat island effect means that the most-impacted cities are expected to lose about 11 percent of their GDP in the same period.
The economists noted that some actions can be taken to mitigate these effects including installing cooling pavements and green roofs and reintroducing vegetation in urban areas.
To read the full story and for more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.
From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.
The body of scientific research examining the extent to which extreme weather can be attributed to human-induced climate change is growing. Carbon Brief, a climate journalism site out of the United Kingdom, recently created an interactive map that color-codes these studies, making it easy to discern which events were caused by climate change and which were not.
Carbon Brief mapped a total of 144 extreme weather events worldwide that have been included in “extreme event attribution” studies. The investigators determined that 63 percent of all extreme weather events studied thus far “were made more likely or more severe” by human-induced climate change. Extreme heat waves account for almost half of those events that can be attributed to human-induced global warming.
Roz Pidcock is one of the map’s creators. She said, “The temptation is to look at the result of one study and think that is the definitive last word, but in reality, the evidence needs to be considered in its entirety to make sense of how climate change is influencing extreme weather.”
In 14 percent of the studies, scientists determined that humans had no discernible impact on the likelihood or severity of the weather event. For five percent of the weather events studied, climate change made the event less likely or less intense. The vast majority of these occurrences included cold, snow and ice events.
Perhaps the most striking finding included in the report is the overwhelming effect climate change has on the intensity and severity of heat waves. The investigators looked at 48 heat wave attribution studies and determined that 85 percent of those events were made more severe or more likely thanks to global warming.
The authors write, “One study suggests that the Korean heatwave in the summer of 2013 had become 10 times more likely due to climate change, for example. Only one study on extreme heat didn’t find a role for climate change – an analysis of the Russian heatwave in 2010.”
Fewer than ten extreme weather attribution studies have been published so far in 2017. Carbon Brief plans to continue adding updating its map and providing analysis for new studies as they are published in peer-reviewed articles.
The report, titled “Medical Alert! Climate Change is Impacting our Health” was written by medical doctors, including allergists, pediatricians, infectious-disease doctors, OB/GYNs and gerontologists from eleven health organizations.
Very few Americans, less than 32 percent, can name a specific way in which climate change harms human health. “Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the new consortium.
The authors broke down the specific health effects of climate change in each region of the U.S. The doctors explain that three by-products of climate change will directly impact human health: air pollution, extreme heat and extreme weather events. Increased temperatures associated with climate change intensify smog, wildfires and pollen production, leading to poor air quality, the report said. “Poor air quality increases asthma and allergy attacks, and can lead to other illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths,” the authors wrote.
Rising global temperatures cause more frequent, longer, and more extreme heat waves in many parts of the U.S. Excessive heat leads to heat-related illness, exacerbates some medical conditions, and can cause death due to heat-stroke and dehydration. The report read, “Anyone can be harmed by extreme heat, but some people face greater risk. For example, outdoor workers, student athletes, city dwellers, and people who lack air conditioning (or who lose it during an extended power outage) face greater risk because they are more exposed to extreme heat.”
The physicians pointed out that extreme weather events are also taking a toll on their patients. The increased frequency and severity of major storms, floods, and droughts can cause injury, displacement and death, the report read. These events often prevent residents from receiving proper medical care due to blocked roads, destroyed bridges and the like. Gastrointestinal illness and disease often follow the power outages associated with extreme weather events as well, according to the doctors.
Beyond these direct impacts, climate change also speeds up the spread of infectious diseases and has an insidious impact on humans’ mental health. With temperatures rising around the world, infectious disease vectors like ticks, mosquitoes and fleas can now survive in regions that were previously too cold for them. For example, “Ticks that carry Lyme disease have become more numerous in many areas and have expanded their range northward and westward,” the report said.
U.S. residents that have experienced increasingly common extreme weather events like foods, major storms, and droughts are likely to suffer mental health consequences including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Anyone could experience these effects, but women, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with a preexisting mental health condition are most at risk.
The report concluded with a call to government leaders, asking them to address climate change in the name of human health. It read, “Doctors agree with climate scientists: the sooner we take action, the more harm we can prevent, and the more we can protect the health of all Americans.”