The extreme heat of June scorches the entire northern hemisphere and smashes historical temperature records
From Spain to Japan, passing through the United States, China or the Arctic. Severe heat waves have swept across the Northern Hemisphere this June pulverizing temperature records. France, Germany, Switzerland or Russia have registered record highs for this time of year.
Throughout this month, very early for northern heat waves, multiple episodes of extreme temperatures have overlapped. And the historical record says that simultaneous heat waves affecting multiple regions - called concurrent - are becoming more common: "They have multiplied by seven" since the 1980s, according to a recent study from Washington State University (WSU). "It has gone from 20 to 143 days" in which concurrent waves were verified. That implies that almost all 153 days of the warm season, which runs from May to September, had at least one.
"An increase was expected. However, we were surprised that in just four decades, with global warming of 0.8ºC, the number of simultaneous large waves has increased more than six times," explains Deepti Singh, one of the researchers at the WSU. "We have also seen that more regions are affected and that the waves are more severe."
According to their calculations, the length of these multi-episodes has grown by an average of 46%. This June's sequence covers all the northern continents. And its intensity has risen 17%. As the waves "pose a serious threat to health and ecosystems", simultaneous peaks affecting several regions "may exacerbate that threat", the study concludes.
"We live in an interconnected world, so the effects in a region trigger a chain reaction," adds this engineer specialized in climate dynamics. "It can cause crop damage in different areas at the same time, which could lead to global food shortages. The latest studies already show that these concurrent waves can affect global production and threaten food security."
Spain experienced nine days of well above normal heat between June 10 and 19. Some temperatures that they would have been rated very high even in the heat of the heatmaking them "exceptionally unusual" for that time of year.
Thermometers and the risk of forest fires soared. Finally, more than 40,000 hectares burned. Castilla y León recorded its worst fire in the Sierra de la Culebra in Zamora, just one year after setting the record for the most burned mountain in Ávila.
But Spain has not been alone. The penultimate to withstand the unusual thermal rigor have been the Japanese. On June 26, temperatures of 40ºC were measured there for the first time in that annual period. The Government has asked citizens, millions of citizens, to save electricity because "the heat will continue". In Tokyo, the authorities have also requested that energy consumption be lowered during the early hours of the afternoon, "when reserves fall."
Because as the thermometer rises, where possible, the use of refrigeration rises. The air conditioners They work on electricity. In China, for example, they are experiencing at the same time a strong heat wave in the center and north of the country and extreme storms that cause flooding in the east.
Severe heat has triggered a record level of energy demand as Chinese citizens in Shandong, Henan and Hebei provinces have turned on cooling to escape the heat. In the first, where 100 million people live, many have pressed the 'on' of their air conditioners. Its electric grill surpassed 92 million kilowatts of demand on June 22.
This phenomenon illustrates the climate paradox: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has already said during this hot spike and on a visit to a thermal power plant that China must increase its coal production capacity to "avoid power outages". Coal is the fossil fuel that emits the most CO2 into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas that causes, precisely, the climate crisis that multiplies heat waves.
So the temperature records have been falling on all continents. In the US, NOAA has recorded thousands of local tops from California on the Pacific coast to the Carolinas in the east. In cities as far north as Minneapolis or Milwaukee they have seen the thermometer rise like never before and touch 37 ºC. On June 15, one-third of the US population was under a temperature advisory.
Across the Atlantic, the World Meteorological Organization has noted that "an unusually early and severe heat wave spread from North Africa and across Europe." In France, along the same lines as Spain, temperatures in some areas were between 10 and 14 degrees above average for the month of June. At the Cottbus station, 100 km south of Berlin, they set a record of 39.2 ºC. The last state to fall was Italy.
All in all, the WSU researcher has no qualms about saying that "we have solid evidence that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the main cause of global warming that we have experienced in the 20th and 21st centuries and that the waves of heat in many regions are linked to this warming caused by humans.
And in the supposedly cold north? Well, more of the same: a heat outside the records. In Finland, an orange alert was launched this Monday for temperatures above 30 ºC in the south of the country.
Cities within the Arctic Circle such as the Russian Norilsk or the Norwegian Tromso have measured heat peaks to still be in June: 32 and 29.9 ºC, respectively. This Wednesday, the Arctic station of Mehamn melted its record in the mercury for June: it reached 30.8 ºC, five degrees more than the previous maximum record.
"In the short term, we have to prepare for the direct impacts of the multiplication of these events," warns engineer Deepti Singh. That means: "Infrastructures resilient to heat and directing resources towards the most vulnerable groups". But at the same time, "we must prioritize reducing our dependence on greenhouse gases."
Closed June, the, until now, time of great heat in the hemisphere is approaching.