Heat-related deaths. Record temperatures. Raging wildfires. Melting airport runways.
Scorching heat waves are plaguing Europe, Central Asia, and the United States, offering yet more evidence of the suffering the climate crisis could bring.
Britain recorded its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday, according to the country’s national weather service, the Met Office, with a recording of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) at Coningsby in eastern England. It broke a record set just hours earlier — a recording of 40.2 Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at Heathrow Airport.
The United Kingdom also appears to have recorded its warmest night on record from Monday into Tuesday. In some areas, provisional readings showed that temperatures never fell below 25 degrees Celsius, beating the previous overnight high of 23.9 Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit), reached in August 1990.
🌡️ The UK has provisionally seen the highest daily minimum temperature on record ⚠️— Met Office (@metoffice) July 19, 2022
Temperatures didn't fall below 25°C in places, exceeding the previous highest daily minimum record of 23.9°C, recorded in Brighton on 3rd August 1990#heatwave #heatwave2022 pic.twitter.com/kwt1VB07OZ
Amid the shocking heat on Tuesday, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said in a recorded statement that such temperatures in Britain would have been “virtually impossible” if it weren’t for the climate crisis, according to his agency’s research.
Thanks to the climate crisis, the planet has already warmed by 1.1 degree on average, and there’s ample evidence that heat waves are becoming longer and more severe. Without urgent action to kick fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas pollution, the impacts could get even worse.
The blanket of heat has wreaked havoc across the United Kingdom. Wildfires broke out in the London area, engulfing homes.
A significant blaze in #Dagenham is affecting a number of houses, a workshop & a huge area of grassland. Residents are advised to keep their windows and doors closed and motorists should avoid the area where possible. Fifteen fire engines are at the scene https://t.co/mk4b3CyvE9 pic.twitter.com/0j5EezBt8x— London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) July 19, 2022
Travel disruptions abounded. Many train services were canceled and others ran at slower speeds due to concern that the heat could cause tracks to buckle. On Monday, flights at Luton airport were also stopped for hours after heat damaged a runway.
Most homes in the United Kingdom don’t have air conditioning; some estimates put the percentage as low as 5 percent. (More than 90% of homes in the United States have AC.) It’s a sign of how unprepared the nation — known for cooler temperatures and rain — is for climate change. According to Belcher, if the world fails to urgently curb emissions, he said, the country could see heat like this every three years.
The heat wave has plagued countries across the European continent. Germany and Belgium have also issued temperature alerts. And Spain and Portugal are blanketed in deadly heat as well. Between July 10 and July 16, there were 510 heat-related deaths in Spain, according to the Carlos III Institute And Portugal’s Health Ministry said Saturday that there were 659 heat-related deaths over the past week.
Central Asia is facing astoundingly high temperatures, too, according to the Washington Post. Temperatures reportedly reached a mind-boggling 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.62 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kazakhstan on Monday.
Terrible heat wave under way in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan Tuscikuduk (lat 44,4N) rose to 45.9C and it could get even hotter today. The heat will be fierce and at record level for several days, moving east. pic.twitter.com/R3FZPTtwLF— Extreme Temperatures Around The World (@extremetemps) July 18, 2022
Other parts of the world have scorching heat in store, too. Temperatures are expected to soar in China this week, according to the China Meteorological Administration. Last week, temperatures topped 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the country.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, more than 100 million people are facing excessive heat warnings or heat advisories, the the Weather Prediction Center said.
Dangerous and record-breaking heat is forecast across much of the south-central U.S. today and is expected to linger through much of this week. In total, over 100 million people are currently within heat related warnings and advisories. Be sure to follow proper #heat safety. pic.twitter.com/iihx8GduXX— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 19, 2022
One third of the United States’ population is under heat advisory or excessive heat warning today and tomorrow. And more than 80 percent of the US population will experience forecasted high temperatures above 90 degrees in the next week.
In Boston, temperatures could top 90 degrees every day this week and into the weekend. The worst of the wave is expected on Wednesday and Thursday.
As climate change progresses, experts project that periods of extreme heat in Massachusetts will increase. From 1971 to 2000, the average summer in the state saw four days over 90 degrees. By mid-century, climate scientists say the state may have 10-28 days over 90 degrees each year. By the end of the century, Massachusetts could experience between 13 and 56 days of extreme heat each summer, depending on what steps are taken now to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
High temperatures aren’t the only climate disaster afflicting the globe right now. As of Sunday, extreme rainfall and floods in China killed 18 people and forced thousands to evacuate their homes. The Horn of Africa is experiencing a persistent drought, pushing some 10 million people into hunger. Meanwhile, a megadrought is still upon the Western United States, leaving Lake Mead — which supplies water to 25 million people — at historically low levels.
Though it may seem as dangerous as a hurricane or snowstorm, research shows that extreme heat is the deadliest form of extreme weather in the US. So be careful out there.