How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

The summer of 2018 saw wildfires, power outages, and buckling roads and railways. Scientists put the blame on climate change.

The summer of 2018 in Europe, North America and Asia was blistering. People died from the scorching heat. Roads and train tracks cracked. Power fizzled. Wildfires erupted. In Switzerland, climate researcher Martha Vogel found relief by swimming in Lake Zurich. But trying to work in her south-facing office without air conditioning became a real challenge.

She left the windows open at night and closed the shutters against the sun during the day, making conditions a bit more tolerable. Her building was near the lake, which also helped. But the experience left her convinced it was important “to investigate the 2018 event from a climate perspective,” she said.

She and her colleagues at ETH, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics university in Zurich, found the size and number of simultaneous heat waves in the summer of 2018 is the result of human-caused climate change. “The occurrence of such extraordinary global-scale heat waves did not occur in the past, and cannot [otherwise] be explained,” Vogel said. The researchers presented their findings recently at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna. Their paper is under review by the journal Earth’s Future.

Numerous countries wilted under the sweltering temperatures last summer, among them the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, South Korea and large portions of Europe. The Zurich researchers focused on cities and farming regions of the Northern Hemisphere, aware that hot temperatures threaten both people and the crops upon which they depend.

The study authors began by combing through the news for stories about heat waves in 2018, cataloging the many ways that high temperatures imperiled locals. They found reports of heat strokes in Japan, as well as wildfires in Canada, the United States, Scandinavia, Greece, Russia and South Korea. In Switzerland and Germany, farmers saw crops wither, and in the UK, engineers watched train tracks buckle.

How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in July 2017 (left) and July 2018 (right), during a heat wave and dry spell that turned landscapes brown. Source: NASA

Next, the researchers examined the last 60 years of temperature data to determine how many of the regions studied endured extreme heat at any one time. Between May and July of 2018, Vogel said, heat waves simultaneously afflicted one-fifth of the area studied. Historically, heat waves never covered an area of that size.

Finally, the researchers asked what role humans played in the scorching temperatures. To answer this, they used 29 climate models to calculate the probability of such heat waves, both in today’s carbon-rich climate and in the historical climate, which sported less heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Simultaneous heat waves of the size and ferocity seen in 2018 did not materialize in the historical simulation. They only appeared in the simulation of today’s climate. “Hence, we can conclude that a 2018-like event could have not have occurred without human-induced climate change,” Vogel said.

How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

How Humans Fueled Last Summer’s Extreme Heat

Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland in July 2017 (left) and July 2018 (right), during a heat wave and dry spell that turned landscapes brown. Source: NASA

She said the trends are alarming, noting that more frequent, simultaneous heat waves will almost certainly have serious consequences for public health and the ability of nations to protect roads and railways and to fight wildfires. In Scandinavia last summer, for example, some countries asked for emergency assistance to cope with the wildfires, a situation Vogel said could become dire if several countries are fighting wildfires at the same time and can’t help each other.

Moreover, if simultaneous heat waves take a heavy toll on agriculture, the results could provoke instability in global food markets, Vogel said. In 2010, for example, Russia imposed a ban on all wheat exports as a result of a record heat wave — the highest temperatures seen in 130 years — that impaired the country’s grain crop and caused grain prices to skyrocket.

Finally, the study models found as temperatures rise, heat waves like those seen in 2018 will become regular summer features. Since the preindustrial era, temperatures have warmed just 1 degree C. With that amount of warming, humans can expect such heat waves roughly once every six years. If temperatures warm by 1.5 degrees C, an improbably optimistic scenario, 2018-like heat waves will strike once every two or three years. And, if temperatures warm by 2 degrees C, which is only slightly less optimistic, such heat waves will descend on the Norther Hemisphere roughly every year.

This article originally appeared on NexusMedia

About The Author

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

EVIDENCE

The Arctic Paradox
by Tobias Thorleifsson
Explore Ellesmere Island with Tobias in this talk, as he urges us to protect this arctic environment from the hands of…
7 Surprising Results From The Reduction Of Arctic Sea Ice Cover
by David Barber
It is now well known that sea ice in the Arctic has changed in both extent and thickness over the past several decades.
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
by Jake Johnson
"This is unprecedented. I tease people that Anchorage is the coolest city in the country—and climatically that is…
Game On Climate Change Game On
by Laura Tenenbaum
Laura Faye Tenenbaum is the Senior Science Editor for the NASA’s Global Climate Change publication and a member of the…
After Data Shows Last Month Was Hottest June on Record, Sanders Says Maybe Now Is 'Time to Start Treating This Like a Crisis and Not a Hoax'
After Data Shows Last Month Was Hottest June on Record, Sanders Says Maybe Now Is 'Time to Start Treating This Like a Crisis and Not a Hoax'
by Jon Queall
"It's only the hottest June ever recorded on planet earth," said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben with sarcasm. "So,…
Edge of the Great Dying: Extinction crisis
by Stop Fossil Fuels
At least a million forms of life hover at the edge of extinction as humans take over the world. Lead author Sandra Diaz…
Scientists Have Been Drilling Into The Ocean Floor For 50 Years – Here's What They've Found So Far
Scientists Have Been Drilling Into The Ocean Floor For 50 Years – Here's What They've Found So Far
by Suzanne O'Connell
It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor.
Climate Sceptic Or Climate Denier? It's Not That Simple And Here's Why
Climate Sceptic Or Climate Denier? It's Not That Simple And Here's Why
by Peter Ellerton
Climate change is now climate crisis and a climate sceptic now a climate denier, according to the recently updated…

LATEST VIDEOS

Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
by Deepak Ray
Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall…
The Arctic Paradox
by Tobias Thorleifsson
Explore Ellesmere Island with Tobias in this talk, as he urges us to protect this arctic environment from the hands of…
Increased Drought Amid Climate Change & Warming
by Kate Marvel, Radio Ecoshock
Columbia/NASA scientist Kate Marvel explains “hyroclimate” as rains and droughts go extreme. When it comes to your…
7 Surprising Results From The Reduction Of Arctic Sea Ice Cover
by David Barber
It is now well known that sea ice in the Arctic has changed in both extent and thickness over the past several decades.
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
by Eoin Higgins
"The idea was to gag Trump, to silence him, but he continues to speak."
'The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We,' Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We, Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
by Jessica Corbett
A campaigner in Nigeria adds, "It doesn't matter the course you study nor your age, we need you to join climate…
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
by Jake Johnson
"This is unprecedented. I tease people that Anchorage is the coolest city in the country—and climatically that is…
Amazon Deforestation
by BBC News
Brazilian officials have told the BBC that there's been an aggressive increase in deforestation since the election of…

LATEST ARTICLES

How China’s Sponge Cities Aim To Re-use 70% Of Rainwater
How China’s Sponge Cities Aim To Re-use 70% Of Rainwater
by Asit K. Biswas and Kris Hartley
Asian cities are struggling to accommodate rapid urban migration, and development is encroaching on flood-prone areas.
Aviation Emissions Are Rising – And Industry Solutions Are Just Technological Myths
by Paul Peeters, et al
Imagine you are the government’s Minister for Transport: the economy is prospering, global oil prices are falling, and…
With Climate Change Likely To Sharpen Conflict, NZ Balances Pacifist Traditions With Defence Spending
by David Belgrave
In most countries, the question of whether to produce guns or butter is a metaphor for whether a country should put its…
Climate Change Is Putting Even Resilient And Adaptable Animals Like Baboons At Risk
by Isabelle Catherine Winder
Baboons are large, smart, ground-dwelling monkeys. They are found across sub-Saharan Africa in various habitats and eat…
'Sadness, Disgust, Anger': Fear For The Great Barrier Reef Made Climate Change Feel Urgent
by Matt Curnock and Scott Heron
Media coverage of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef may have been a major tipping point for public…
Why States And Cities Should Stop Handing Out Billions In Economic Incentives To Companies
Why States And Cities Should Stop Handing Out Billions In Economic Incentives To Companies
by Nathan Jensen
U.S. states and cities hand out tens of billions in taxpayer dollars every year to companies as economic incentives.
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
by Jennifer D. Adams and Pieranna Pieroni
Iris, a high school student in New York City, took a course aimed at preparing public school students for college.
Why South Africa Can't Make A Massive Shift To Renewables
Why South Africa Can't Make A Massive Shift To Renewables
by Hartmut Winkler
There’s a lively debate raging in South Africa about the extent to which renewables should replace coal, particularly…