High temperatures and heatwaves take hold across the globe
by WMO, DW, Inside Climate News, agencies
20 June 2017 (WMO)
Parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States of America have seen extremely high May and June temperatures, with a number of records broken.
The heatwaves are unusually early and are occurring as the Earth experiences another exceptionally warm year.
Average global surface temperatures over land and sea were the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by NOAA, NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Only 2016 saw higher global temperatures due to a combination of a very powerful El Niño event, which has a warming impact, and long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change scenarios predict that heatwaves will become more intense, more frequent and longer. It is also expected that the number of hot days will continue to rise.
North Africa, Middle East and Asia
The temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50°C on 17 May, with 50.5°C in Mezaira.
In the center of Iran''s Kuzestan province in the south-east of the country, neighboring Iraq, temperatures reached 50°C on 15 June.
The heatwave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9°C Larach Station in northern Morocco.
The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May. The town of Turbat in southwestern Pakistan reported a temperature of 54°C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54°C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.
Near record to record heat has been reported in the desert southwest USA and into California, with highs near 120°F (49°C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend. The US National Weather Service has warned that dangerous heat will continue through at least Friday 23 June in Nevada, Arizona, parts of California and Las Vegas.
Phoenix recorded 118°C (47.8°C) on 19 June. In the 11,059 days since the start of record keeping, 118°C heat has only been recorded 15 times. A number of flights to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport were reportedly cancelled because it was too hot to fly.
The Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), which acts as WMO’s Regional Climate Centre for Europe’s Node on Climate Monitoring, has issued a Climate Watch Advisory valid until at least 25 June. It states that a period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves is expected for most parts of western Mediterranean (from Portugal to western Balkans).
The heatwave originated as a result of very hot air moving up from the Sahara to the Iberian Peninsula and parts of the Mediterranean.
Extremely high temperatures of around 40°C contributed to the severity of the disastrous wildfire in Portugal which has claimed dozens of lives. An amber alert for heat – the second highest warning level – continues to be in place in the area on 20 June.
The Portuguese national meteorological service, IPMA, said that over the weekend, when the fire broke out, more than one third of its weather stations measured temperatures over 40°C. The meteorological service said that for 20 June, 5 municipalities are at maximum fire risk and 58 at very high risk.
Spring 2017 (from 1 March to 31 May 2017) has been extremely warm, with an average temperature of 15.4°C, which is 1.7°C above the average of this term. It has been the warmest spring since 1965. It has been the warmest spring since the beginning of the 21st century.
May was extremely warm, with a temperature that surpassed the normal value by 2.4°C. As of June, the average temperature is well above normal values. A number of places broke temperature records for June for both maximum daytime temperatures and minimum overnight ones. These include Granada airport, 41.5°C, Madrid Retiro 40.3°C and Madrid airport 40.1°C on 17 June.
Fifty one departments in France have an amber alert for high temperatures on 20 June, according to Meteo France. A number of stations broke June records, including Cuers at 37.6°C and Toulon 35.3°C. Records for minimum night-time temperatures were also beaten (25.1°C in Montpellier, 25°C in Marseille) on Friday 16 June.
Many other parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, also witnessed above average temperatures into the low to mid 30°s.
Jun 19, 2017
Deadly Heat Waves could endanger 74% of Mankind by 2100, reveals new study, by Marianne Lavelle. (Inside Climate News)
Deadly heat waves, already a risk for 30 percent of the world''s population will spread around the globe, posing a danger for 74 percent of people on Earth by the end of this century if nothing is done to address climate change, according to a new study.
Nearly as alarming, the researchers project that even if greenhouse gases are aggressively reduced, at least 48 percent of the population will still face deadly heat waves by 2100 because of the amount of long lived heat-trapping gases that already have accumulated in the atmosphere.
"We''re running out of good options for the future," said lead author Camilo Mora, a biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "For heat waves, our options are now between bad or terrible."
The new study comes as near-record heat is forecast for this week in California and the U.S. southwest, with the temperature expected to soar to 120 degrees in Phoenix, and as severe heat grips parts of Europe, contributing to forest fires that have killed at least 60 people in Portugal.
A handful of deadly heat episodes have made headlines in recent decades, including the 2003 European heat wave that killed some 70,000 people, the 2010 heat wave in Russia that killed 10,000 people, and a 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 700 people. But Mora and his team, in analyzing heat mortality episodes reported in peer-reviewed scientific literature between 1980 and 2014, found that deadly heat episodes are far more common and widespread than previously thought.
The researchers identified 911 papers with data on 1,949 case studies where human deaths were associated with high temperatures. They found that lethal heat waves had occurred in 164 cities across 36 countries. The team obtained climatic data for the times and locations of those episodes, including surface air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and several other metrics.
The team was able to plot a threshold beyond which conditions are lethal, based both on temperature and humidity.
Sustained exposure to air temperatures at and above the human body temperature, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) can result in dangerous body heat accumulation. But humidity is also a key factor. When relative humidity is high, air temperatures around 90 degrees can become lethal, as sweating becomes less effective for dissipating the body''s heat.
The area of the planet where the deadly heat threshold is crossed for 20 or more days per year has been increasing, and now encompasses one-third of the world''s population primarily at tropical latitudes, the team said in their study published today in the science journal Nature Climate Change.
But with climate change, the risk will extend both south and north. An online tool released with the paper allows counting, for any place on Earth, the number of days per year when temperature and humidity would exceed such a deadly threshold, both today and in the future under different climate change scenarios.
For example, by the time children born today are in their 80s, New York will have 50 days per year with temperatures and humidity exceeding the threshold beyond which people have previously died due to hyperthermia, if no steps are taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Sydney would face 20 deadly heat days a year by 2100 and Los Angeles would face 30 under a "business as usual" scenario.
The study notes that the consequences of exposure to deadly climatic conditions will be aggravated by an aging population, since elderly people are more vulnerable to heat mortality, and by increasing urbanization, because of the heat-trapping effect of asphalt surfaces, building materials, and reduced vegetation.
For Orlando and Houston, deadly heat would last the entire summer by 2100 without steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the study projects. Indeed, even though the degree of future warming is projected to be greater in temperate zones and at the poles, the greatest risk to people from deadly heat events will be at zones closer to the equator, because of the additional impact of humidity.
"With high temperatures and humidity, it takes very little warming for conditions to turn deadly in the tropics," said Iain Caldwell, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, another of the paper''s authors.
The study bolsters previous research projecting increasing risk to humanity due to heat waves because of climate change.
Howard Frumkin, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, who was not involved in the new study, notes it is difficult to project how many people will die in future heat waves and the new research does not try to do so, because it is hard to predict how people will adapt to the changing climate, by increasing use of air conditioning, for example.
"That''s a two-edged sword," notes Frumkin, one of the lead authors of the U.S. National Climate Assessment''s chapter on human health effects, most recently updated in 2014. "Until we power our air-conditioners solely with renewable energy sources, the steps we take to cope with the threat actually aggravate the threat," he said. Frumkin also noted that the risk of severe, prolonged heat will be greatest for the poor, who often don''t have access to air-conditioning.
"Overall, the study reinforces what we already knew: that large areas of the inhabited world will experience unprecedented levels of heat exposure in the next several decades, and that this hazard shift has significant potential implications for health," said Jeremy Hess, another environmental and health sciences expert at the University of Washington, who was a co-author of the National Climate Assessment.
Hess said a logical conclusion from the new research is that the U.S. exit from the Paris climate agreement, and the lessened effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that it represents, means that the risks will arrive sooner than if nations take aggressive action on climate change.
The increasing risk of heat mortality was one of the risks cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 when it adopted its finding that greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to human health and ecosystems. That endangerment finding was the legal foundation for the actions the Obama administration took to curb fossil fuel emissions.
Although the Trump administration is now seeking to undo most of those steps and to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.
Mora said that even though the team''s research projects the spread of deadly heat even under the most aggressive international policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he hopes that the study helps spur such action.
His greatest fear, he said, is that people read the grim results as a reason to abandon effort as useless. On the contrary, Mora said, a delay in curbing greenhouse gas emissions will make the spread of heat mortality more difficult to manage and reverse. "As bad as this is," he said, "we cannot afford to give up hope."
All governments must act to save biodiversity
by John Knox
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, urges all States to do much more to fulfil their obligations to protect the world’s biological diversity from extinction.
“We should all be alarmed at the accelerating loss of biodiversity on which healthy ecosystems depend. We should also be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic human rights without a healthy environment.
While the eyes of the international community are justifiably focused on the future of the Paris agreement on climate change, this year’s World Environment Day brings us an opportunity to celebrate our intimate relation to nature.
We depend on healthy natural ecosystems for so much – nutrition, shelter, clothing, the very water we drink and the air we breathe. And yet, natural forest area continues to decline, marine ecosystems are increasingly under siege, and estimated populations of vertebrate animals have declined by more than half since 1970.
Many scientists believe we are at the outset of the sixth global extinction of species around the world, the first in over 60 million years.
States have reached agreements to combat the causes of biodiversity loss, which include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change. But the same States are woefully failing to meet their commitments to reverse these disturbing trends.
Nearly one third of natural and mixed World Heritage sites reportedly suffer from illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which have driven endangered species to the brink of extinction and threatened the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them.
The extinction of species and the loss of microbial diversity undermines our rights to life and health by destroying potential sources for new medicines and weakening human immunity. Reduced variety, yield and security of fisheries and agriculture endangers our right to food. Nature’s weakened ability to filter, regulate and store water threatens the right of access to clean and safe water.
Without healthy ecosystems, governments will be severely challenged to meet their commitments on sustainable development. Biodiversity and human rights are interlinked and interdependent, and States have obligations to protect both. In that connection, they should carry out their commitments to implement legal and institutional frameworks for biodiversity protection.
Governments should ensure public information and participation in biodiversity-related decisions and provide access to effective remedies for its loss and degradation.
Park rangers, indigenous peoples and others who put their lives on the line to safeguard natural ecosystems should be recognized as human rights defenders and protected.
World Environment Day is an opportunity to appreciate nature’s beauty and its importance to humanity. For us to truly connect to it, we must collectively encourage our Governments to fulfill their legal obligations to protect the Earth, its biodiversity and those who defend it from harm.”
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