Record-Breaking Heat

It’s arguably been one of the nicest summers in the UK for a very long time. Having spent the last 5 weeks there and barely seeing a single drop of rain, the warm temperatures and sun have been a welcome change to the usual British summer that includes a lot of rain, despite the typical British response of ‘it’s too hot’…

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The hot weather seen in the UK is the same all over Europe. A number of places even as far north as the Arctic Circle have seen temperatures well over 30℃ and forest fires are causing huge amounts of damage all over the continent. Unprecedented forest fires in Sweden are causing huge damage to the boreal forests in the north of the country whilst Greece deals with the worst forest fires in its history as small towns and villages surround the nation’s capital, Athens, are decimated. The hot weather across Europe has also led to a number of deaths with Greece dealing with the largest share.

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Greece has been struggling to deal with huge fires burning close to the capital

This extreme weather goes well beyond Europe too. Japan and other eastern Asia countries are experiencing extremely warm temperatures. Many places in Japan exceeded 40℃, breaking a number of temperature records in the process and leading to a number of deaths also. The Japanese government have gone as far as calling the hot weather a natural disaster.

Temperature records have been shattered all over the world. In North America, Toronto has seen twice as many days over 30℃ as last year and other Canadian cities have broken records. Cities in the USA have also seen temperature highs in California and Colorado. In Africa, the highest temperature ever recorded on the continent was measured at 51.3℃ in an area of Algeria within the Sahara Desert just days ago. In Europe, more records were broken with a highest recorded temperature in Scotland and a number of city records in Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as those records in the Arctic Circle. It was also recorded that areas of Siberia have been measured as being 40℉ higher than usual.

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Hot temperatures have been recorded all over the world (Source: The Washington Post, 5th July 2018)

So What is Causing this Hot Weather?

Whilst low pressure weather systems bring variable, unsettled weather, high pressure systems bring calmer weather. A number of high pressure systems have lingered in many areas on the northern hemisphere, and particularly over the Arctic, for weeks now. The limited change in weather is predominantly down to the slowing of the jet stream that controls much of the weather in the northern hemisphere.

The slowing of the jet stream is linked to rapid ice melt in the Arctic. As cold meltwater moves south into the Atlantic, the jet stream slows, leading to the recent weather we’ve seen. As that water warms again, the jet stream will speed up again and eventually lead to changes in the weather.

The Role of Climate Change?

Climate change is happening. The world is getting hotter and drier and extreme weather events like these heatwaves are becoming increasingly common. As the world warms up, the scenes we’re seeing across the world at the moment will become much more common and something we’ll have to very quickly adapt to.

Recent data records have shown that the planet is getting warmer. The video below showing temperature data recorded by NASA satellites shows how the earth has warmed up over the last 137 years. The planet has also been getting drier with less and less rainfall occurring due to the rise in temperatures. Even if climate change isn’t the sole cause of the high temperatures we’ve seen in recent weeks, its certainly a strong factor for the number of high temperature records that have been set all over the northern hemisphere

The extended hot weather the UK and many areas in the northern hemisphere have seen is a combination of weather and climate change. The slowing of the jet stream is a multidecadal event, meaning that it will continue to occur in the future. However, the number of high temperature records broken right across the world shows that climate change is going to make these periods even hotter in the future. With things only getting hotter, countries around the world need to begin planning how they can protect the lives of citizens and reduce the fire risk in the warmest and driest of weather.

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