Sometimes the heat in summer is news. The start of the summer season in the northern hemisphere has been extremely hard this year. June 2021 has been the fourth warmest globally ever on record, behind only 2016, 2019 and 2020. This is a worrying trend, as the five worst months of June on record have been in the last six years, according to Copernicus data, the EU observation program.
By region, last month was the hottest June ever recorded in North America and the second in Europe. “We cannot anticipate if [el resto del verano en Europa] it will be historically hot. What we can indicate is that the seasonal predictions for the July-August-September quarter indicate with a high probability (more than other years), estimated at between 70-100%, that in southern Europe the average temperature of said quarter will be higher to the media, “says Beatriz Hervella, spokeswoman for the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet).
“So many records have been broken that it is difficult to keep track”, stated the World Meteorological Organization in a June report. Many of those records have been set in Canada and the United States, which were hit at the end of the month by a brutal heat wave that skyrocketed mortality by 195% in British Columbia, the Canadian province most affected, and which left hundreds of deaths in both countries.
On June 27, Canada’s historical record was broken in the town of Lytton with 46.6 degrees (1.6 degrees more than the previous one, registered in 1937). A day later, the municipality broke its own record reaching 47.9 degrees. And he did it again for the third time 24 hours later with 49.5 degrees. For its part, Seattle (USA), also registered a record high of 41.7 degrees and Portland reached 44.4 degrees. It is also an area with a moderate climate. The previous hottest June in North America was in 2012, with a temperature 1.05 degrees higher than average. This year’s was 1.2 degrees higher than normal.
This weekend, Furnace Creek, in Death Valley, California, recorded the highest temperature on Earth, with more than 54 degrees centigrade, that is, similar to the record of August 2020.
“The heat wave in North America has been an incredibly rare phenomenon resulting from the combination of several elements. Without the effect of climate change, the same phenomenon that is already serious, it would be less so,” he says Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting.
Impossible wave without climate change
A study published this Thursday by the center World Weather Attribution, in charge of studying the possible impact of climate change on extreme events, argues that a heat wave like this would have been “practically impossible without man-made climate change.” “An event like this, which is currently estimated to occur once every 1,000 years, would occur roughly every five or 10 years in the future with global warming of two degrees (0.8 degrees more than today).
“We are getting closer and closer to scenarios that push us to the limit of habitability. The fundamental conclusion is that, increasingly, the fight against climate change is a fight for survival”, says Hervella.
Regarding Europe, only June 2019 was warmer than today, when another deadly heat wave swept across the continent. Last month’s average temperature on the continent was 1.5 degrees higher than the average between 1991 and 2020. Temperatures were especially warmer than normal in Finland and Russia. The highest average ever seen in Helsinki was recorded, with data dating back to 1844. Moscow also experienced its hottest June day ever recorded. In Kevo, Lapland, the thermometer reached 33.6 degrees, the highest since 1914. Other European countries such as Hungary, Malta, Serbia, Bosnia, Belarus, Estonia Y Ukraine, among others, also broke the record for the month of June.
“Although we assume heat as the new normal, that is only a trend. In that sense, that does not mean that each and every one of the next months of June will be warmer than the previous ones, since some, from time to time, can escape to that maximum although unfortunately the general tendency will be to increasingly higher average temperatures “, says Hervella. “In Spain, the current summers are five weeks longer than at the beginning of the 80s,” he adds.
The action of man in this phenomenon is difficult to hide. “To understand the magnitude of the problem, we must mark the context in which we are. We must go back three million years to find concentrations similar to the current CO2 in the atmosphere. But it is also that we must take into account that the changes Natural atmospheric composition and climate have always taken place over thousands of years and current changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases have only occurred in decades, “says Hervella. “The problem is twofold: we have a lot accumulated and we have accumulated it in a very short time.”
“Our capacity to act still exists. We are within the window of opportunity for action, but as these are accumulated gases, reducing emissions means working on how the next decades will be,” says the Aemet spokeswoman. “Modifying emissions now does not have an immediate effect, but it will serve to mitigate to a greater or lesser extent the effects of climate change that is already affecting us but that we can mitigate in the future.”