Americans are accustomed to turning on their air conditioners at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). But in the UK, a record-breaking heatwave this week has brought a pandemic-like life to a standstill.
Temperatures in the UK topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time on Tuesday, making the day the country’s hottest on record.
In the US, one-third of the population is under heat-related weather warnings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures expected to rise north of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in the Plains states.
Looking at the cause of these extreme temperatures in the US and Europe, you can see that different systems are at work.
In Europe, due to a strong high pressure ridge, temperatures across the continent have risen over the past few days. On Tuesday, an area of low pressure approached the coast, helping to funnel intense heat north into the UK.
In the US, a strong high pressure dome has formed over the Southern Plains and the Mississippi Valley. Instead of channeling heat from the south, it builds up relentlessly as the sun bakes through a cloudless sky.
The connecting fabric between these heatwaves is the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and the ever-increasing core temperature of the planet.
“But greenhouse gas-driven climate change has made these temperatures possible, and we are actually seeing that opportunity now,” he said, adding that if the world continues to emit greenhouse gases at the level it is now, such heatwaves are likely to decrease. take place every three years.
In other words, don’t leave the house.
But in the UK, which is battling cold rather than heat, houses are also designed to keep warm. Table fans are sold all over the country, but they don’t work that far.
“The all-time temperature record for the UK has not just been broken, it has been completely destroyed,” said Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading. “The 39 degrees Celsius mark will never be the UK’s temperature record because we just jumped over 40 degrees in one sweaty jump.”
The UK is completely unprepared for the consequences of the climate crisis. He struggles to deal with floods when they happen. In the heat, the nation bends.
In southern Europe, a region more accustomed to extreme heat, at least 1,100 people have died in the latest heat wave and French firefighters are engulfed in flames raging through the forests. Twenty-one European countries are under a heat-related alert.
Americans may be more accustomed to the heat, but heatwaves are also getting longer and more frequent there, meaning they spend more time indoors or where there might be air conditioning. On Tuesday, at least 100 million Americans – almost a third of the country – were warned of the onset of the heat wave.
The alerts come from the southern plains to the Mississippi and Tennessee river valleys, and the alerts are scattered across the southwest. The Northeast has already issued heat advisories for heat “feels” like 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) on Wednesday.
The most dangerous heat is forecast in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, where extreme heat warnings are in place for Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Little Rock. Temperatures are expected to rise to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit (up to 43 degrees Celsius) in the next few days.
Scientists who are working on the role the climate crisis plays in extreme weather now say that almost every heat wave in the world is due to people burning fossil fuels.
Friederika Otto of the Grantham Climate Change Institute at Imperial College London said the world should go to zero emissions, with people emitting as few greenhouse gases as possible and “offsetting” the rest to stop heatwaves. even worse, “deadly and destructive”.
“We have an agency to make us less vulnerable and redesign our cities, homes, schools and hospitals, and teach us how to stay safe,” Otto told CNN. “40 degrees Celsius in the UK is not a natural disaster, but largely due to our past and present burning of fossil fuels.”
He warned of scorching heat waves this week despite seasonal rains, with temperatures likely to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in the south from Wednesday.
In central London on Tuesday, a student named Asser, who has weathered the heat, told CNN that the world is not doing enough to combat the heatwaves.
“In fact, the world does nothing. The world is on fire and we do nothing about it. We just consume, the industry works, and nobody does anything about the climate,” he said.
“You have heatwaves in Europe, London and the US, everywhere – you can see it, it’s obvious. You have floods, forest fires and all that.”
Sana Nur Haq of CNN, Angela Fritz, Brandon Miller and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.