It has been awhile since we have done a roundup of the world’s weather. With our part of the planet making weather headlines around the world for the late-June heat wave, drought, and resulting forest fires, we may be paying less notice to what is happening outside our area of the planet.
Before we look into specific global weather events, I must make a quick comment on the latest report coming out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Now I know I said I would take a break from discussing anything related to climate change, but sometimes something is newsworthy enough that you just have to look at it. The latest report amalgamates eight years of research from over 14,000 papers. It is not a group of scientists conducting their own research, rather a group of scientists that read and evaluate research being done by thousands of scientists all around the world and then work together to pull all of that information into a summary of the research.
The results show that global temperatures for the period 1850 to 2020 were warmer than any other such period going back more than 100,000 years. New computer modelling shows that if they ran the model without building in any burning of fossil fuels the 1850-2020 warming does not occur. This is strong evidence to support human-caused global warming.
With CO2 levels now approaching 420 parts per million (they were approaching 375 ppm when I first started writing about the weather back in 2004) it is looking like we are now seeing temperature rises and changes in climate that may take hundreds to even thousands of years to reverse if we were to get emissions under control. If not, then we may see climate tipping points that we may not be able to reverse happening sooner than we expected.
OK, now on to weather events from around the world. Well, interestingly enough, heat just happens to be one of the major stories. If you watched the Olympics then you might have heard that Japan, over the period of the Olympics, experienced one of its hottest periods in over 30 years. What made matters worse, was the heat was accompanied by heavy rains. Put the two together and you get hot, muggy days that make it very uncomfortable. It was probably good that there were no spectators as I would hate to see just how many heat-related medical emergencies there would have been.
We are not the only ones dealing with persistent hot, dry weather. California along with much of the western U.S. is in the midst of a drought and heat wave that has seen dozens of cities smash temperature records for the hottest summer so far. Nearly 50 per cent of the U.S. was reporting moderate to extreme drought conditions by the end of June. In California, the heat and drought has allowed wildfires to explode. Over in Europe, Greece and Turkey are also dealing with extreme heat and wildfires, with temperatures pushing past the 40 C mark in many locations.
Not everyone is dry. Extreme flooding is happening in central Europe (Germany and Belgium), where upwards of 150 to 250 mm of rain fell in a 48-hour period on what was already saturated ground. This part of the world does not usually see this much rain so quickly and the natural and human-made environments can just not handle it. Unfortunately, the flooding from these rains resulted in 209 deaths, making this the 10th-deadliest European flood in the past 100 years.
China has also seen some extreme rainfall and flooding. In fact, the rainfall in the city of Zhengzhou (10 million people) on July 20 was absolutely astonishing, with 644.6 mm of rain reported within a 24-hour period — the average the city usually sees in an entire year. At the heaviest, the intensity topped out at 201.9 mm in just one hour which is well above the record for all of China (168.3 mm). By the end of this rainfall event on July 21, the city recorded a total of 787.9 mm of rain. Almost just as amazing, though still sad, the resultant flooding only killed 33 people with eight people reported missing.
Let’s finish our look at global weather by checking out the poles. As Antarctica is now in the middle of winter, ice conditions are expanding towards the yearly maximum. Sea ice in this region is high this year, with amounts running near the top end of the usual range. In the north the opposite is true. Arctic sea ice is currently running well below average and up until the middle of July was running neck and neck with the lowest ice level since satellite measurements began. Since then, the rate of melting has slowed, and it does not look like this year will break the record for lowest ice extent which was set back in 2012. We do have to keep in mind that it takes all the right conditions to come into play to really push ice levels to low amounts. So far this summer, conditions in the Arctic have not been highly favourable for ice melt yet we are still seeing near-record-low levels.
As you can see, we are not the only ones with weather woes this summer.