According to The Washington Post’s extreme heat tracker, 57 million people in the U.S. were exposed to dangerous heat on Tuesday. At the same time, there was China Caught in a severe heat waveThe Antarctic will be warmer than usual during its winter, with temperatures reaching 122F in northern Africa. Reuters reported.
El Nino is back and ready to turbocharge for more extreme weather
Tuesday’s global average temperature was calculated by a model that uses data from weather stations, ships, ocean buoys and satellites, Paolo Seppi, a climate scientist at London’s Grantham Institute, explained in an email Wednesday. This model system has been used to estimate daily mean temperatures since 1979.
“This is our ‘best guess’ of what the surface temperature was yesterday at each point on Earth,” he said.
Instrument-based global temperature records go back to the mid-19th century, but for earlier temperatures, scientists depend on proxy data captured through evidence left in tree rings and ice sheets. “These data suggest that there hasn’t been this much heat since at least 125,000 years ago, which was before the glaciations,” said Seppi, referring to the unusually warm period between the two ice ages.
According to the same data, last Monday’s temperature was recorded at 62.62 degrees Fahrenheit. Prior to that, the highest average temperature on record was 62.46 degrees Fahrenheit measured on August 14, 2016, during the previous El Niño cycle.
Extreme heat continues for millions of Americans, and more is coming
Experts agree that unless action is taken to combat carbon emissions, temperatures will continue to rise.
“When is the hottest day? It’s when global warming, El Niño and the annual cycle all line up. It’s the next couple of months,” Miles Allen, a professor of geosystem sciences at the University of Oxford, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s a triple.”
Register on Tuesday–The breakout temperature is partly explained by climate change, which is causing the world to warm, Allen said, adding that global temperatures are already 1.25 degrees Celsius (2.25 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average. “It’s warming by 0.25 degrees Celsius per decade,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing records being broken continuously, not just once.”
Last year, a report by a United Nations panel of 278 top climate experts warned that the planet was on track to exceed the globally agreed goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). Beyond that threshold, scientists fear that people will be unable to adapt to climate-induced disasters such as heat waves, famines and infectious diseases.
“If we want to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, which is the goal of world governments, we have very little time to stop warming,” Allen said. “You don’t need a climate model to know that — it’s just braking distance.”
We looked at 1,200 possibilities for the future of the planet. These are our best hopes.
An analysis of more than 1,200 climate change scenarios by The Washington Post shows about 230 different trajectories that could leave the Earth below 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. However, the world needs to move beyond any “net zero” target for fossil fuel emissions and requires better conditions to begin removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“The solution to the problem is actually very simple,” Allen said: “Capture carbon dioxide, recapture it where it’s generated or from the atmosphere and dispose of it underground. If we do this, we’ll definitely use a lot less fossil fuels.
In the coming months, scientists expect more days of heat as El Nino returns after a four-year hiatus. In June, scientists announced that this phenomenon — which encourages the atmosphere to trap more heat — had returned.
“The global temperature record is a combination of natural variability in climate and the underlying global warming trend,” Seppi said, adding that natural variability is largely explained by El Niño.
This pattern describes how the ocean “takes in” and “releases” heat every few years, Seppi said. “We are currently at the point where the ocean is releasing heat into the atmosphere.”
“Looking to the future, we can expect global warming to continue, so unless we act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, temperature records will be broken more often,” Ceppi warned.