The heat wave intensifies in Europe. All major Italian cities are on “red” heat alert. Forest fires burn forests across the continent. What is causing such an extreme heat wave?
Europe is currently experiencing the most extreme heat wave in history, with temperatures well above average. In some parts of the continent, the temperature has reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and there are concerns that the heat wave could have serious consequences for human health, the environment and infrastructure. The European Space Agency (ESA) has forecast a high temperature of 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Health authorities have issued warnings to people in Europe, North America and Asia to avoid the strong sun and stay hydrated. For the first time, the UK Met Office has issued a “red” heat warning – its highest heat alert level – for Manchester, London and other UK regions. France has also issued a “red” alert where the mild temperature is also forecast to reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fierce wildfires have been reported across Europe due to record temperatures. In addition, roads and power lines have melted and railway lines have become deformed.
Recent trends in temperature change around the world
Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, in a statement to CNN, said these current temperatures are “almost certainly” the warmest temperatures the planet has seen “probably for at least 100,000 years.”
Based on data from the NOAA Centers for Environmental Information, the heat map below shows that most of the planet is warming. See trends in the planet’s global average surface temperature between 1993 and 2022 below.
Extreme heat waves are one of the biggest causes of climate-related deaths worldwide. Let’s understand what a heat wave is and its causes along with the impacts of temperature change and ways to mitigate the challenge of temperature rise.
What is a heatwave?
A heat wave is a period of abnormally hot weather that lasts several days. Heat waves can occur in any season, but are most common during the summer months. Heat waves can be caused by a number of factors, including high-pressure systems, warm ocean currents, and changes in the jet stream.
What is causing an extreme heat wave in Europe?
The latest heat wave in Europe is reportedly being caused by a phenomenon known as a “shear minimum”, in which a low-pressure system becomes isolated from the rest of the jet stream, thus causing waves to build up. severe and long-lasting heat. in a certain region.
Dr Malcolm Mistry, assistant professor of climate and geospatial modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Currently, the jet stream from North America to Europe is stuck in a position approximately south of the Channel. the Blob in a U-shaped Flow, with the trough and crest of this wave south of the United Kingdom.
“To the north of the jet stream, we have colder arctic air and areas of low pressure, which in turn bring spells of rain to the UK.
“South of the jet stream, we have an opposite weather pattern, with a stalled high pressure system pulling warm air out of North Africa and keeping conditions warm and dry.
Main causes of heat waves or temperature changes
The main factors that are driving temperature change in the US and Europe, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use changes.
“Greenhouse gas emissions, from burning fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, are making heat waves hotter, longer and more frequent,” said Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College. of London and co-director of the World extreme weather research consortium. Weather Attribution, she said in a statement.
These are some of the causes of heat waves:
High pressure systems: Heat waves are often caused by high pressure systems. These systems are areas of high atmospheric pressure that cause air to sink. As the air descends, it heats up.
Warm ocean currents: Heat waves can also be caused by warm ocean currents. These currents can bring hot water to the surface, which can then evaporate and cause the air to warm.
Changes in the jet stream: The jet stream is a band of strong winds that flows high in the atmosphere. Changes in the jet stream can cause warm air to become trapped in certain areas, which can cause heat waves.
Climate change: Climate change is also a factor that can contribute to heat waves. As Earth’s atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture. This moisture can then evaporate and cause the air to warm up.
It is important to note that heat waves can be caused by a combination of factors. For example, a heat wave caused by a high-pressure system can be made worse by warm ocean currents or changes in the jet stream.
Impacts of temperature change
The impacts of temperature change in Europe are already being felt and are expected to be more severe in the future.
The Earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years, but the pace of change in recent decades is unprecedented. This is due to human activities that are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the planet to warm.
Some of the more serious impacts include:
Heat waves: Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense and pose a serious threat to human health.
Increased ozone pollution levels: Heat waves increase ozone pollution levels because they cause more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be released into the atmosphere. These VOCs react with sunlight to form ozone, which is a harmful pollutant.
Droughts: Droughts are becoming more common and are drying up rivers, lakes and aquifers. This is having a devastating impact on agriculture and ecosystems.
Flooding: Flooding is becoming more severe and is causing widespread damage to property and infrastructure.
Wildfires: Wildfires are becoming more frequent and destructive as dry conditions and heat waves create the perfect conditions for fires to start and spread.
Sea level rise: Sea levels are rising and this is threatening coastal communities around the world.
Loss of biodiversity: Temperature change is causing the extinction of plant and animal species.
Changes in agricultural yield: As temperatures increase, crop yields are expected to decrease in some areas. This could lead to food shortages and price increases.
Disease Spread: Warmer temperatures are allowing mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects to spread to new areas. This is increasing the risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever.
Infrastructure Damage: Warmer temperatures are causing roads, bridges and other infrastructure to deteriorate more quickly. This could lead to costly repairs and outages.
Economic losses: The impacts of temperature change are expected to have a significant economic impact. This could lead to job losses, business closures and higher insurance costs.
Way forward: mitigation
The Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of 0.14° Fahrenheit (0.08° Celsius) per decade since 1880, or about 2° F in total, the NOAA Climate Centers stated.
Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense and pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. The impacts of heat waves are already being felt around the world and are expected to be more severe in the future.
The European heat wave of 2023 is a stark reminder of the dangers of climate change. The heat wave is having serious repercussions on human health, the environment and infrastructure. It is important to take measures to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of temperature change in order to protect Europe from the worst effects of climate change.
There are several things that can be done to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of heat waves. Some of these measures include:
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: This is the most important step that can be taken to mitigate climate change, which is the main cause of heat waves.
Build more resilient infrastructure: This includes measures such as making buildings more energy efficient and providing shade in public spaces.
Educate the public about the risks of heat waves: This will help people stay safe during heat waves and take steps to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
Provide cooling centers – This is a place where people can go to cool off during a heat wave. Cooling centers can be installed in public buildings, such as libraries and community centers.
Air quality monitoring: Air quality can deteriorate during heat waves, so it is important to monitor air quality and take steps to protect yourself if air quality is poor.
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