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article imageRecord-breaking heat marches to the beat of climate change

By Karen Graham     Jul 25, 2018 in Environment
The summer of temperature extremes just keeps going, with record heat waves this month on all four continents that occupy the non-tropical Northern Hemisphere where it is now summer.
From the United Kingdom to Sweden and Norway, Greece and Japan on into the United States and Canada, heat, oppressive heat, has sent thousands of people to hospitals with heat-related illnesses while killing hundreds more, reports CNN.
In Africa, a weather station at Ouargla, Algeria, in the Sahara desert, recorded a temperature of 51.3C, (124.3F) the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa.
In Kumagaya, Japan, a city only 40 miles from Tokyo, the temperature on Monday hit 41.1 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) in the midst of a multiweek heat wave that has killed at least 44 people. This is the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan, dating back to the 1800s when temperatures started being recorded.
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Copernicus Climate Change Service
In Canada, Toronto has already recorded temperatures that have exceeded 30C (86F) on 18 days so far this year. All last year, there were only nine days where the temperature exceeded 30C. Montreal coroner Jean Brochu said it was the first time the city’s morgue was so full that bodies had to be stored in other parts of the city.
Wildfires are blazing everywhere
Last week, Sweden, a nation known for its cold clime and snow, found itself overwhelmed with over 50 wildfires, 12 of them within the Arctic Circle. The country had experienced months without rain, followed by weeks of soaring temperatures that dried vegetation.
At least 79 people died in huge wildfires around Athens, Greece. Greek authorities said Wednesday, that rescuers shave been searching scorched homes and burned-out cars for survivors of one of the deadliest fire outbreaks in Europe's modern history.
The European Union activated its Civil Protection Mechanism after Greece sought help to tackle the f...
The European Union activated its Civil Protection Mechanism after Greece sought help to tackle the fires
Valerie GACHE, AFP
Rain is forecast for the coming days, which will help efforts to douse the flames after temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Monday. Shock was giving way to public anger Wednesday, with several media outlets questioning how such a devastating blaze could have hit a country well used to wildfires.
And in California, in the United States, wildfires so early in the fire season have already set a record that will probably pass last year's record-breaking fire season. The Ferguson Fire, near Yosemite National Park, has already forced the evacuation of all visitors as firefighters work to contain the fire in temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why is this happening?
The front page of a Greek newspaper, the Ethnos, showed a charred Greek flag with the headline: "Armageddon." However, it's a stretch to say we are experiencing Armageddon. And while it may be "hot as hell," weather scientists say there is never one single factor that explains hot weather around the world.
Northern Hemisphere of jet stream at 300 mb on July 25  2018.
Northern Hemisphere of jet stream at 300 mb on July 25, 2018.
California Regional Weather Server
The BBC's science editor David Shukman says: "What is striking now is that multiple heatwaves are happening at the same time."
"The key is the jet stream. This year it's been meandering in great loops and the UK has ended up to the south of it. Add sea temperatures similar to previous heatwaves and climate change, the warming of the atmosphere - it all makes heat waves more likely. Climate scientists are not saying we will get heatwaves every year. But they do say the risks of extreme heat are going up."
The Jet Stream is a fast-flowing river of air snaking continually round the northern hemisphere at altitudes of around 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). “It’s been a key player in the astounding heatwaves across the UK and Scandinavia this summer,” says Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The global thermometer has risen by one degree since the mid 19th-century  enough to see a crescendo...
The global thermometer has risen by one degree since the mid 19th-century, enough to see a crescendo of climate-enhanced droughts, floods, heat waves and superstorms
DIMITAR DILKOFF, AFP/File
She says the evidence is mounting that accelerated warming of the Arctic is a major reason why the jet stream keeps getting stalled. The stream is driven by collisions between cold air descending southward from the Arctic and warm air pushing northward from the equator.
Basically, the power of the jet stream is being weakened because the Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. “Heatwaves over northern hemisphere continents in recent years fit the hypothesis that rapid Arctic warming is playing a role,” says Francis.
More about record heat, Wildfires, northern hemisphere, Jet stream, Arctic
 
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