Around the world, global warming is making heat waves hotter, storms more intense and wildfires more frequent.
Pick almost any slice of time in the recent past and you can find clues to how climate change is jacking up dangerous weather extremes. Because of greenhouse gas pollution, this year will end up as one of the hottest three on record. In the last 30 days, all-time high temperature readings in the United States outnumbered record lows 86 to zero, and for the year-to-date, the ratio of heat records to cold records is 212 to 11. In the 1950s, the ratio was one-to-one.
Given these trends, it’s no surprise that one of the recent record highs may end up being the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit, on Aug. 16 in California’s Death Valley. Maxx Dilley, climate program director with the World Meteorological Organization, said the potential record is still being investigated, but it’s clear that, with global warming, many more such records will be set in the years ahead.
“We’ve got this closed system. We’re on a ball floating through space, with a thin skin of gas around us,” he said. “We’re changing the composition of the atmosphere with pollution in a way that traps more heat. This is going to continue as long greenhouse gases continue building up.”
In the 10 days after the potential global heat record in Death Valley, an unusual lightning storm blasted California with more than 11,000 lightning strikes that sparked hundreds of fires; more heat records were set in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; unprecedented flooding in Asia washed away villages and threatened China’s Three Gorges Dam; and twin hurricanes threatened the Gulf of Mexico, with Hurricane Laura generating a storm surge as high as 11 feet that pushed far inland along the Texas and Louisiana coast.
Here’s how these extreme events unfolded over a 10-day period.
Aug. 16: Death Valley Heat Record
Scientists know that climate change is driving deadly heat extremes, said University of Oxford climate scientist Friederike Otto, who studies links between global warming and extremes.Insideclimate News