CLIMATE | As Northern Hemisphere sizzles in scorching summer, environment experts warn of worse if global warming continues
BEIJING, CHINA — With scorching weather broiling the Northern Hemisphere this summer and setting off forest fires in the Arctic region, environment experts link the phenomenon to greenhouse gas emissions and warn of worse if global warming is not checked.
Asia, Europe, North America and North Africa have recorded historically high temperatures while even parts of the Arctic have seen the mercury jump above 30 degrees Celsius.
In Europe, the average temperature in Sweden in July was 3 or 4 degrees Celsius above normal. Many areas in Sweden, including Stockholm, recorded the highest temperatures in July in the past 260 years. The soaring temperature has caused Sweden’s highest peak, a glacier on the Kebnekaise Mountain, to melt at the rate of several centimeters a day.
Other North European countries, like Norway, Finland and Denmark, have also seen rare high temperatures.
Greece suffered from devastating wildfires that killed more than 90 people. Parts of Britain baked in record heatwaves and droughts, with over 1,000 people dying.
In Italy, the Health Ministry last week issued a red alert in 18 cities while Portugal issued a red alert for more than half the country, with the mercury approaching 46 degrees C, close to the country’s highest recorded temperature of 47.4 degrees C in 2003.
Spain also issued an extreme heat alert for its southern areas, with temperatures expected to reach 45 degrees C in the cities of Seville, Huelva, Badajoz and Cordoba. Cordoba witnessed Spain’s all-time record of 46.9 degrees C in July 2017.
Some meteorological stations inside the Artic Circle recorded a temperature of above 30 degree C. The cold region even saw forest blazes due to the unusually hot and dry weather.
In Asia, high temperatures across Japan have killed 125 people and forced over 57,000 to be hospitalized over three months ending July 29, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the extreme heat is expected to continue through early August.
Temperatures in South Korea hit an all-time high Wednesday. The mercury touched 41.0 degrees C in Hongcheon, a town in northeastern Gangwon Province, at about 16:00 local time (0700 GMT), according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).
It was the highest ever temperature recorded across the country since the KMA started compiling the data in 1907. Capital Seoul has seen a daily high of 39.6 degrees C at midday, marking the highest in 111 years.
China’s National Meteorological Center renewed a yellow alert on Sunday as a heatwave continued in most parts of China.
On Sunday, most areas south of the Yangtze River, as well as Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guangdong and Xinjiang will see temperatures reach 35-36 degrees C, while some areas may see temperatures hit 39 degrees C, the center said.
In North America, temperatures climbed past 43 degrees C in Montreal, Canada, in early July. The health authorities of Quebec Province said at least 50 people died in the province.
In the U.S., California and other states like Texas and Arizona have encountered record high temperatures, which triggered destructive wildfires.
In North Africa, Morocco sweltered in 43.4 degrees C early July, while the temperature in eastern Algeria touched 51.3 degrees C.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said last month that extreme weather, like high temperatures and drought, has been witnessed in multiple places, intensifying wildfire disasters in the Northern Hemisphere and posing a danger to human health, agriculture and the ecosystem.
“2018 is shaping up to be one of the hottest years on record, with new temperature records in many countries,” WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova said.
The soaring temperatures “are consistent with what we expect as a result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Bengt Lindstrom, a meteorologist at Swedish national weather agency SMHI, called the long and persistently high temperature worldwide this summer worrisome.
“A day or two over 30 degrees C is not remarkable, but it has been incredibly persistent, that’s what’s sensational,” Lindstrom told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
The high temperature and wildfires are closely linked to global warming, said Yifang Zhu, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. The wildfires in western United States were predictable against the backdrop of the ongoing climate change, Zhu said.
If the world fails to take effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there will be more and more such incidents and the situation will worsen, she added.