Signs of a Changing Climate: Record Heat Waves Across the Globe

wind fire

A monstrous heat wave is slated to strike Portugal and Spain this weekend — the latest in a series of record-breaking, at times deadly, temperature surges around the globe. Sand-filled winds which blow from the Sahara in Africa are expected to bring about absurdly high temperatures of 118°F to 122°F, which surpass the hottest temperature ever recorded in continental Europe (118.4°F, 1977 Athens).

climate anomalies

Selected climate anomalies and events map during June 2018. Photo credit: NOAA

The danger is expected to continue after the wave dissipates. Wildfires are a likely successor to extreme heat; they swept Portugal and Spain last fall, killing at least 35 people.

Those looking to predict other disastrous consequences of this new heat wave need only review the extraordinary events of these past couple of months. In South Korea, an ongoing heat wave lasting a fortnight left 29 dead; Wednesday’s temperature of 95°F is the highest recorded in more than a century.

After experiencing more than 40 related casualties since early July, Japan declared its latest heat wave a natural disaster.

Finland recorded the hottest July in its history.

Death Valley, California, named partly for its lethal heat, went a step further and posted the most scorching month ever anywhere — for the second year in a row, and there are wildfires right now in California and Colorado.

climate anomalies

Selected climate anomalies and events map during June 2018.
Photo credit: NOAA

This summer’s streak of broken records has alarmed US climate scientists, the vast majority of whom attribute the frequency and severity of recent heat waves to climate change — a phenomenon denied by President Donald Trump and prominent members of his party.

In a study published last year, Stanford scientist Noah Diffenbaugh found that climate change increased the breakout rate of heat milestones across more than 80% of Earth’s surface area.

Watch the videos below to learn more about the impact of extreme temperatures.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from sweaty face (Michael / Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0).


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5 responses to “Signs of a Changing Climate: Record Heat Waves Across the Globe”

  1. lebowski says:

    There is always hope, as hope dies last…but face it, we’re on the Titanic.

    So? So be nice to each other.

    Of course if the petro-stuff were simply left in the Earth…but when did man ever avoid the Jevons so-called “paradox”? (look it up)

  2. Terifict says:

    I have no comment about this article. But the title contains a phrase that is used all the time anymore and it irks me. “Across the world” the world is round. You can only go around it, not across it.

  3. stevor says:

    Just don’t think that CO2 is causing it. If you disagree with me, please explain how the tides were higher in 1885 than the 50s, 60s, or 70s (the tides supposedly rising because manmade CO2 is melting the poles).

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      Your response is to pick one data point and compare it to another 80 years later, while completely ignoring the upward trend overall for all data points. Seriously?

    • JMO says:

      Certainly, C02 is a contributor. One difficult thing about climate science is that there are many factors that influence temperature. Correct me if I am wrong, but the above graphs seem to show a global average temperature increase of approximately 1.5 degrees F over the last 120 years.

      Personally, I believe the reason a lot of miscommunication, contention, and misunderstanding exists on this topic is because most people have a poor understanding of the scientific method as well as the use of blunt/sloppy communication when trying to articulate ideas (this is not a slight towards the author, I think they did a fine job). What I mean is that people often aren’t talking, or arguing, about the same thing. For example, whether or not the climate is changing (it always is to some degree), whether or not that change is actually statistically significant, whether or not that change can be considered catastrophic to life on the planet, and to what extent the change in climate is caused by humans ARE ALL DISTINCT QUESTIONS.