While the summer months may be coming to an end, the scorching weather remains unfaltering. Frequent heat waves in the United States and Europe suggest that global temperature extremes may continue throughout the remainder of the year.
Last month, France reported its driest July yet, while England recorded its warmest in almost 90 years. Italy and Greece, along with other European countries, have faced ferocious wildfires these past months. Overall, Europe is 2.01º C warmer than during the preindustrial period. This is nearly twice the current global land temperature average of 1.1º C hotter than the preindustrial period, the European Environment Agency reports.
Today’s heat waves are more intense and longer lasting than ever before. Residents in the United Kingdom are experiencing water shortages and facing the future prospect of water rationing. In the United States, heat is the weather event with the most recorded deaths. Spain and Portugal, collectively, have reported over 1,100 heat related deaths in the past two weeks, according to NBC news.
Kim Knowlton, an assistant clinical professor of environmental sciences at Columbia University, recently reported that temperatures in some areas in Europe and the United States are far above what the human body can handle for extensive periods of time (which is around 95º F).
The cause of these rising temperatures? Climate change. While a combination of sluggish ocean currents, dry soil and stagnant airflow could all be factors of the heat, the main cause of global warming, and, in turn, climate change, remains fossil fuels. Increasingly frequent heat waves are a stark reminder of the hazards they pose.
“Climate change is fueling these dastardly heat waves that are almost beyond belief, and we’re not accustomed to them yet,” Knowlton said “There’s an awful lot of assumption that heat is [just] an inconvenience, but it kills people.”