If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have been wondering why on Earth it’s been so hot recently, we have some bad news for you. While warmer temperatures might be welcomed by many, they’re actually a worrying sign that our planet is heating up, and we are to blame.
Denver in Colorado reached a record high of 40.5°C (104.9°F) last week, while Montreal in Canada hit its hottest ever temperature of 36.6°C (97.9°F). Unfortunately, it's been reported as many as 19 people across the US and Canada have died as a result of the intense heat so far. This hot weather is expected to continue for another week before spreading further west.
Across the pond, the UK and Ireland have experienced a surprising transformation from the usual gray, drizzly “summer” they so often experience. In fact, Britain is experiencing its longest spell of hot weather in 42 years, and it’s not going anywhere for the next few weeks.
“The long-range trend is for above-average temperatures staying until the end of July,” meteorologist Emma Salter told The Times.
Meanwhile, Glasgow in Scotland has hit a new record high, reaching temps of 31.9°C (89.4°F). It’s been so hot that the “weatherproof” material on top of the city’s Science Centre has literally melted. The town of Motherwell claimed Scotland’s highest ever recorded temperature of 33.2°C (91.8°F).
Over in Northern Ireland, Belfast has set a new record of 29.5°C (85.1°F). Very worryingly, the heat combined with colder temperatures earlier in the year could affect British and Irish potatoes, leading to a crisp (if you're in America, chip) shortage.
Crisps are chips and chips are fries.
Heading east, Ahvaz in Iran reached record highs of 54°C (129.2°F), Yerevan in Armenia hit 42°C (107.6°F), and the people of Pakistan experienced a scorching 50.2°C (122.4°F). Meanwhile, Quriyat in Oman experienced the hottest sustained temperature in a 24-hour period the world has ever seen, with a minimum of 42.6°C (108.7°F).
So why is this happening? And why is it so widespread?
Heatwaves can often be passed off as freak events when they are isolated to one specific place. But the current heatwave is happening across much of the world’s Northern Hemisphere. This means it’s not simply an anomaly, but a sign of widespread change. Despite what climate deniers and certain influential politicians might say, the world is literally heating up due to human activity, and we are currently watching it happen.
“We know that these kinds of events are very consistent with what we expect to be happening with climate change,” Jennifer Marlon of Yale University told The Times.
If we don’t manage to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and restrict warming to the 1.5°C (2.7°F) set out by the Paris Climate Accord, sweltering summer temperatures around the globe could become the world’s new normal. While this might sound rather nice to those living in usually chilly climes, the unpleasant side effects of global warming mean that it won’t be.
Rising sea levels will submerge idyllic islands like the Maldives and flood coastal cities like San Francisco. Unique and iconic animals around the globe could go extinct. And by the end of the century, there could be 2 billion climate refugees across the planet.
Luckily, we still have the chance to reduce climate change’s impacts, and the vast majority of nations are committed to doing so.