On Tuesday, punishing heatwaves hit three continents, breaking records in Northern Hemisphere cities less than two weeks after Earth recorded what scientists have called arguably its hottest days in modern history.
Firefighters in Greece have rushed to put out the blazes, as arid conditions have increased the risk of further wildfires across Europe. Beijing recorded another day of 95-degree heat, and people in Hangzhou, another Chinese city, likened the stifling conditions to a sauna. From the Middle East to the American Southwest, delivery drivers, airport workers and construction crews worked under scorching skies. Those who could stay indoors did so.
The temperatures, which were plaguing the world so much at once, reminded us that climate change is a global crisis, driven by man-made forces: emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate change, tried to coordinate part of the global response with the Chinese premier in Beijing as a heat wave hit a huge swath of China.
« The world is really looking to us for that leadership, particularly on the climate issue, » Kerry told Chinese officials. “Climate, as you know, is a global issue, not a bilateral issue. It is a threat to all of humanity. »
The planet has warmed by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century and will continue to get hotter until humans stop burning coal, oil and gas, scientists say. Warmer temperatures contribute to extreme weather events and help make periods of extreme heat more frequent, longer and more intense.
Also influencing conditions this year is the return of El Niño, a cyclical weather pattern which, depending on the temperature of the sea surface and the air pressure above it, can originate in the Pacific and have wide-ranging effects on the weather around the world.
For hundreds of millions of people on Tuesday, it was hard to escape the heat. In the United States, Phoenix broke a nearly half-century record on Tuesday, with the city’s 19th consecutive day of temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius). Elsewhere in the country, hot and humid conditions were expected to worsen along the Gulf Coast and throughout the Southeast.
Wildfires have raged for another week in Canada, having burned a staggering 25 million acres so far this year, an area roughly the size of Kentucky. With more than one month of peak fire season, 2023 has already eclipsed Canada’s annual record since 1989.
The fires also forced evacuations in villages south, west and north of Athens, burning some 7,400 acres of forest in Greece despite aerial bombardments with water to keep the flames under control.
“We have had fires, we have them now and we will have them in the future, and this is one of the consequences of the climate crisis that we are experiencing with ever greater intensity,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement. .
Mr. Mitsotakis cut short a trip to meet European leaders in Brussels to oversee firefighting. Greek authorities, who have opened air-conditioned premises in Athens to offer some relief, are also expected to limit access to the Acropolis to the cooler morning and afternoon hours, as they did last weekend after the collapse of a tourist.
In many European cities, officials have introduced cooling stations. And aware of the danger – more than 61,000 people died in last summer’s heatwaves in Europe, according to a recent study – they have urged both visitors and residents to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day.
In Rome, where temperatures surpassed 100 Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday, officials rallied a task force to distribute water and help people suffering from heat stress at sites such as the Colosseum and open-air markets.
Japanese authorities have likewise been quick to help people suffering from the heat: During a festival in Kyoto on Monday, nine people, aged between 8 and over 80, were taken to hospital while the temperature approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, where the temperature exceeded 102 degrees Fahrenheit, the regional education board has urged 415 elementary and middle schools to cancel exercise classes and outdoor activities.
And in China, where a series of heatwaves have hit the country since late June, Beijing and other cities have recorded temperatures above 30 degrees day after day.
Power plants, in turn, have broken records for electricity generation, according to the Official energy news from China — burn more coal to meet cooling demand. China uses a significant amount of solar, wind and hydroelectric power, but still relies on coal for three-fifths of its electricity. Some Internet users in two provinces, Guangdong and Sichuan, reported scattered blackouts this week; state media, which tends to be slow to acknowledge power problems, has kept quiet about the blackouts.
For millions of people in South and Southeast Asia, the sweltering heat started long before summer. India recorded the hottest February in its history, then suffered high temperatures in April, when 11 people died of heatstroke in a single day, and again in May and June. The monsoon rains have cooled temperatures across the country in just the last few weeks.
Even regions where high heat is normal — and where those who can barely afford to venture outdoors in the summer — have experienced extremes.
At the Persian Gulf International Airport on Iran’s southwest coast, the heat index – which measures how hot it really is outside based on both temperature and humidity – reached a stunning high of 152 degrees. Fahrenheit (66.7 degrees Celsius) at 12:30 on Sunday, according to A meteorological data. The combination of 104-degree heat and soaked air, with 65% humidity, pushed conditions at the airport beyond what scientists have She said humans can normally resist.
In California’s Death Valley National Park, the thermometer read just over 128 degrees (53 degrees Celsius) on Sunday.
It was in Death Valley, the 3,000-square-mile stretch of Mojave Desert along the California-Nevada border, where the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In 1913 at Furnace Creek, California, the temperature reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit, or 56.6 degrees Celsius.
In recent years, thermometers have edged closer, reaching 130 degrees Fahrenheit in 2020 and 2021, and forecasters have warned it could approach the mark again this summer. But at least this week, the National Weather Service expects temperatures in the national park to drop by, relatively speaking, 122 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vivian Ye, Shawn Hubler, Raymond Zhong, Stanley Reed, Patricia Coen, Isabella egg, Niki Kitsantonis, Jacey Fortin, John Yoon, Viviana Wang, Lisa Friedmann, Nadia Popovich, Hisakō Ueno, Hikari Hida, Motoko Rich, Erin McCann, Anushka Patil AND Chris Stanford contributed report.