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Heatwaves becoming the New Normal: climate change's alarming impact

Scorching temperatures in the northern hemisphere, coupled with rain and flooding disastrous for lives and livelihoods, are advancing l

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
September heatwave to become a common occurrence in Kashmir, experts warn

Scorching temperatures in the northern hemisphere, coupled with rain and flooding disastrous for lives and livelihoods, are advancing like a new normal and underscore the urgent need for more climate action, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned.

“We need to step up efforts to help society adjust to what is, unfortunately, becoming the new normal,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a new appeal.

Record Heat, Extreme Impact

The United Nations meteorological agency highlighted, from this Swiss city, that June witnessed the warmest global average temperature on record, and heat waves have persisted until early July during the boreal summer.

Torrential rains and flooding have caused dozens of deaths and affected millions of people in the United States, Japan, China and India. In South Korea, flooding has claimed 40 lives.

“Extreme weather, an increasingly frequent occurrence in our increasingly warming climate, is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies,” Taalas said.

He added that “this underscores the growing urgency to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and deeply as possible.” Those gases, like carbon dioxide, are responsible for global warming.

Elevated temperatures increase the risk of wildfires, as seen recently in Canada, which has lost more than nine million hectares of forest in 2023 to date, far exceeding the 10-year average of around 800,000 hectares.

The resulting pollution and haze spread across much of the northeastern United States, affecting the health of millions.

Intense heatwave sweeps globe, triggering disasters

Above-normal temperatures, with the mercury rising more than five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) above the long-term average, are forecast for the Mediterranean region over the next two weeks, as well as many places in northern Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.

Daily highs will frequently reach over 35–40 degrees Celsius in many places, and in the Middle East and south-eastern Turkey up to 45 degrees.

The European Union's Copernicus Emergency Management Service warned of a "very extreme" danger of fires in parts of Spain, Sardinia and Sicily (Italy) and parts of Greece on July 17.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2050, about half of the European population may face high or very high risk of summer heat stress.

A widespread heat wave is intensifying in the southern United States, with high temperatures likely in many places, according to the US National Weather Service, which says some places could even record all-time temperature records.

Heavy rains and flooding have caused severe damage and loss of life in various parts of the world in recent days.

Extreme weather wreaks havoc worldwide

The WMO said the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued emergency warnings for heavy rain for Kyushu, the country's third-largest island, along with a new daily rainfall record two days ago.

"It is raining like never before," the JMA summarized in its messages.

Meanwhile, the northeastern United States, including New York State and the neighbouring New England region, have seen deadly torrential rains. New York issued a flash flood emergency and more than four million people were under flood watches on July 11.

Floods in northwest China killed some 15 people, and in northern India roads and bridges collapsed and houses were washed away when rivers burst their banks, during heavy monsoon rains and floods, claiming tens of lives.

Sanbao, in northwestern China's Xinjiang province, had a temperature of 52.2 degrees Celsius on July 16, setting a new national temperature record, according to reports yet to be verified.

The WMO also highlighted that while developed countries have increased the level of preparedness, such as flood warnings and management, low-income countries remain vulnerable.

“As the planet warms, the expectation is that we will see increasingly intense, more frequent and more severe rainfall events, which will also lead to more severe flooding,” said Stefan Uhlenbrook, director of hydrology, water and cryosphere at the OMM.

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