Too Hot to Go Outside
By John Lawrence
A city in western India set an all-time heat record of 123.8 degrees F in May. Authorities issued a severe heat wave alert which means that people can expect temperatures of 117 degrees F or more. In addition, drought is affecting much of the country. The heat will probably not let up until the monsoon rains come sometime in June.
The prolonged heat wave has already killed hundreds and destroyed crops in more than 13 states. Hundreds of small farmers have reportedly killed themselves, and tens of thousands have been forced to abandon their lands and live in squalor in urban slums in order to eke out a living.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, and groundwater supplies are severely depleted. The government has sent in water by train for emergency relief. Dr. Bhani Ram Paliwal, the principal medical officer at a government hospital in Phalodi, could not remember days like this in 15 years of working there.
Roughly 500 patients, almost double the average number, visited his outpatient department, many complaining of diarrhea and fever. “It was like heat waves were coming out of a clay oven,” he said. Scientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high pace, average global temperatures could rise by more than six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
Last year more than 2,400 people died from heat-related illness in India, according to India’s National Disaster Management Authority. Many of those who died were laborers and farm hands who work outside, even in peak temperatures. The heat makes going outside virtually unthinkable, and staying indoors is a critical safety measure. “If you go outside you can’t survive in this heat wave,” Dr. Paliwal said.
Canada Burns Up
This gigantic fire in Canada’s Alberta province started out at Fort McMurray on May 1. It is still burning and stretches 370 miles long. 88,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray. It has consumed more than 544,000 acres. So far 2400 homes and buildings have burned.
Fuelled by tinder and helped along by unseasonably warm weather and low humidity, the fire released massive amounts of energy as it moved, creating its own weather, including lightning which produced new fire starts. High winds make these kinds of fires uncontrollable. Shorter winters produced by global warming contribute to the drying out of burnable vegetation. More than 500 firefighters continue to fight the blaze. In Alberta, 15 wildfires are still burning.
The fires are occurring in the heart of Canada’s oil fields and oil producers are warning of production shortfalls. So far the tar sands themselves have not caught fire, but, if they did, Canada would have an even huger problem on its hands. The problem is that winds have become more ferocious all over the world due to global warming. This has produced more monstrous wildfires as well as more monstrous tornadoes.
Tornadoes tore through the nation’s midsection from Texas to Indiana flattening homes, uprooting trees, snarling traffic both on the ground and in the air. Softball sized hail was unleashed, causing dents in thousands of cars. One of the most damaging tornadoes touched down in Grayson County in north Texas. The storm shredded roofs, flipped over semi-trucks and sent at least five people to the hospital. A woman was killed when a tree landed on her mobile home. There have been 468 tornadoes reported in the United States in 2016.
A significant tornado outbreak occurred across an area extending from Colorado to Kentucky beginning with a large multiple-vortex EF2 tornado that tossed several RVs and injured two people near Wiggins, Colorado on May 7. A high-end EF2 tornado also caused considerable damage near Wray Colorado as well.
Tornado activity was less intense on May 8, though a significant tornado event caused major damage across parts of Oklahoma on May 9. This included multiple EF3 tornadoes and the first EF4 of the year, a large stovepipe tornado that caused severe damage and one death near Katie, Oklahoma. Significant tornado activity continued on May 10, including an EF3 that struck the town of Mayfield, Kentucky. Overall, this outbreak killed two people and produced 43 tornadoes.
As the month of May ended, there were more torrential rains and tornadoes in Texas leading to several dead and missing and extensive property damage.
Torrential rains in France and Germany produced massive flooding with the Louvre Museum in Paris shut down to prevent damage to the paintings.
Global warming is making hot days hotter, rainfall and flooding heavier, hurricanes stronger and droughts more severe. This intensification of weather and climate extremes will be the most visible impact of global warming in our everyday lives. It is also causing dangerous changes to the landscape of our world, adding stress to wildlife species and their habitat. It is causing more power outages, more hail produced damage to cars and structures, crop damage and outright loss, more human migration into already overburdened urban areas and more political unrest.
Sea level rises are threatening high price real estate in coastal areas prompting the building of expensive sea walls which will only hold back the tides temporarily. More allergies and viruses such as the Zika virus will affect larger and larger areas as disease-carrying mosquitoes migrate northwards. The first decade of this century (2001–2010) was the hottest decade recorded since reliable records began in the late 1800s. The first antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been unleashed on the world.
Flooding is becoming more common as clouds release torrential rains due to more moisture being trapped in the atmosphere. A pattern of intense rain and snowstorms and periods of drought is becoming the new normal in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere continue to rise.
Extreme weather because of global warming could become the new climate normal, increasing the risk of world instability, the World Bank warns in a new report.
Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal analyzes the impact of warming of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius (3.6 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels on crops and coastlines.
“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying – past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier.”
Extreme heat is the biggest problem, the report found, because it can reduce crop yields, negatively impacting food security and future economic growth as well as economic development, social stability and well-being.
“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” Kim said. “They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support, and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.”