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Heatwave hell

Extreme hot weather is crippling the northern hemisphere. : Michael Joiner, 360info CCBY4.0 Extreme hot weather is crippling the northern hemisphere. : Michael Joiner, 360info CCBY4.0

Temperature records are tumbling as unprecedented heatwaves hit the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia.

The planet is baking.

Southern Europe is sweltering through a record heatwave with temperatures tipped to surpass the European record of 48.8C.

In Italy, people have been warned to brace themselves for “the most intense heatwave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time” with a red alert for 16 cities. Rome registered a record high temperature of 41.8C on Tuesday.

The southwestern United States has experienced almost three weeks of 43C-plus days and China recorded its hottest ever day on Sunday.

The same day the aptly-named Furnace Creek in California’s Death Valley hit 53.3C. The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 56.7C in July 1913 at the same spot. (Although this figure is disputed.)

Phoenix, Arizona broke a 49-year-old record on Tuesday with the city’s 19th consecutive day of temperatures 43.3C or higher

In China, the remote northwest township of Sanbao in Xinjiang’s Turpan Depression recorded 52.2°C on Sunday 16 July, state-run newspaper Xinjiang Daily reported.

In Iran, the Persian Gulf International Airport weather station registered a heat index value — the apparent “feels like” temperature to the human body — of 67C on Sunday. Heat indexes of 71C are considered the upper threshold of what humans can endure.

The spikes in temperatures across the northern hemisphere come two weeks after the the planet recorded its hottest-ever day on July 3, only for that record to be broken the following day.

Extreme heat events have become more intense and now last on average about 24 hours longer than 60 years ago, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, it’s not only the northern hemisphere experiencing warmer weather. Australia is in the middle of winter but has had record-high winter temperatures for July, prompting unseasonal plant behaviour.

All this comes after Asia suffered through weeks of a heatwaves that saw temperatures hit record levels in some countries.

To top it all off, an El Nino weather system is underway. El Niños tend to push global temperatures up, increasing the chance of 2023 being the hottest year ever recorded.

The World Meteorological Organization says it is likely the planet will break the 1.5 degrees barrier sometime in the next five years. Earth’s hottest year was 2016. It says there is a 98 percent chance one of the next five years will exceed that.

They say the extreme heat was at least 30 times more likely because of climate breakdowns caused by human activity.

The heat surge is due to increasing emissions and a likely El Niño weather pattern later this year. Indeed, researchers from Australia’s CSIRO have found human activity has likely caused changes to El Nino.

This article has been updated and republished to reflect the record heatwave affecting most of the northern hemisphere. It was originally published on May 22, 2023.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.

Editors Note: In the story “Heatwave hell” sent at: 20/07/2023 07:39.

This is a corrected repeat.

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Chris Bartlett
Deputy Editor, 360info Asia-Pacific