Putting this summer’s global heat record into context

Putting this summer’s global heat record into context

This summer saw unprecedented global average temperatures. June set a record for the hottest month of June. So was July, not just the hottest month, but the hottest month on record since modern record-keeping began in the 19th century. August came in as the second-highest all-time record. The results: deadly heat waves, warming oceans, and massive wildfires.

To help put these phenomena in context, here are some of the most popular heat and climate articles we’ve published over the past few years, along with media reports on this year’s baking temperatures that have quoted our experts.

Combinations of potentially lethal humidity and heat appear all over the world

Written by Kevin Kragic | May 8, 2020

map by Jeremy Hinsdale; Adapted from Raymond et al., Science Advances, 2020

According to a new study, dangerous combinations of heat and humidity are already emerging around the world. The study identifies thousands of rare or unprecedented episodes of extreme heat and humidity in Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including the US Gulf Coast region. And along the Persian Gulf, researchers have discovered more than a dozen cases of short-lived disease outbreaks that exceeded the theoretical limit for human survival. Researchers say outbreaks have so far been confined to local areas and lasted only hours, but are increasing in frequency and severity.

Summer heat waves have caused many glaciers to collapse

by Jaden Hill | September 13, 2022

During the summer heat waves of 2022, glaciers in the Italian Dolomites, Kyrgyzstan and central Switzerland collapsed due to the extreme heat. “This summer’s heatwave is an exciting lesson in triggering multiple unexpected changes at once,” says author Jaden Hill.

You asked: How much does carbon dioxide cause global warming?

by Sarah Fichte | February 25, 2021

Over the past few years, we’ve received many questions about carbon dioxide — how it traps heat, how it can have such a large effect if it makes up only a tiny percentage of the atmosphere, and more. With the help of Jason Smerdon, a climatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, we’re answering that question.

Afternoon heat mapping measurements in the South Bronx

A mapping study of urban heat islands with a focus on environmental justice

Written by Jeremy Hinsdale | August 26, 2021

Buildings, roads, and infrastructure absorb and re-emit more heat from the sun than landscapes do. Combine a densely built environment with human-generated heat and you soon begin to see urban heat islands—areas within a city where temperatures can be up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding vegetation. And in the summer of 2021, researchers collaborated with citizen scientists to map the heat in parts of upper Manhattan and the Bronx at street level for the first time.

Photo: Grant Harley/University of Idaho

More than 1,000-year-old tree rings confirm historic maximum heat wave in western North America for 2021

Written by Kevin Kragic | March 27, 2023

A study of tree rings in western North America indicated that the region’s summer 2021 heatwave was almost certainly the worst in at least the past millennium. “The unprecedented nature of summer 2021 temperatures across (the study area) indicates that no region is immune to the economic and biological impacts of high summer temperatures,” the lead author wrote. Karen Heater and colleagues.

Fire This Time: Confronting the Reality of Climate Change

Written by Steve Cohen | June 12, 2023

“In the past week, for several terrifying days, we have seen additional evidence of our interconnected biosphere. Fires burning about 400 miles from New York City have turned the air orange and driven New Yorkers off their streets,” writes author Steve Cohen. “People in other parts of America Other parts of the world are familiar with this phenomenon, but New Yorkers were not. Now we are.”

Worldwide exposure to deadly urban heat has tripled in recent decades, the study says

Written by Kevin Kragic | October 4, 2021

A new study of more than 13,000 cities worldwide finds that the number of days when residents experience an extreme mix of heat and humidity has tripled since the 1980s. The authors say this trend, which now affects nearly a quarter of the world’s population, is a combined result of rising temperatures and booming urban population growth. “This has wide ranging effects,” said the study’s lead author, Cascade Tuholsky. “It increases morbidity and mortality. It affects people’s ability to work, and it lowers economic output. It exacerbates pre-existing health conditions.”

Photo: Radhika Iyengar

Do you feel hot yet?

By Radhika Iyengar | May 3, 2022

A personal report on some of the ways climate change is affecting India, now the world’s most populous country. “My family members there report that the hot air burns their noses and that their shoes stick to road bitumen because it melts in the heat as they walk. It has become unbearable to live in many parts of India. Of course the economically disadvantaged people will bear the brunt of this dangerous heat.

Eco-friendly ways to keep cool during a heat wave

by Renee Chu | August 3, 2018

“It’s really important for people to try to stay cool during the summer heat and especially during heatwaves, because heat can kill people and it can make them sick, and that includes even healthy young people and athletes,” said Kim Knowlton of Columbia. The university’s Mailman School of Public Health. If you don’t have access to an air conditioner, or choose not to use it, here are some eco-friendly strategies for keeping cool. Hopefully, they will also save you money on your electric bill.

  • New research shows a direct link between greenhouse gas emissions and the decline of polar bears

    Inside Climate News | September 3, 2023
    A 2021 report from the Sabine Center for Climate Law summarizes scientific findings on the effects of climate change on endangered species. Global warming poses a systemic threat to almost all species, and if biodiversity collapses, some of the planet’s best natural mechanisms for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slowing atmospheric warming will fail.

  • Extreme heat may accelerate cognitive decline in some people

    The Independent | August 23, 2023
    According to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July 2023 was hotter than any other month in the global temperature record. With harsh summers and rising global temperatures, it can be very difficult for the body to adapt.

  • Wildfires, Hurricanes, and Heat: The United States is hit by extreme weather conditions from all sides

    NBC News | Tuesday, August 22, 2023
    The myriad disasters should serve as a wake-up call about society’s vulnerabilities to climate-exacerbated risks and the need to mitigate and adapt to the realities of a warming world, said Andrew Kruczkiewicz, a senior research associate at Columbia Climate College.

  • The temperature of the Mediterranean Sea has risen to “unprecedented” levels amid the global heat wave

    United Press International| August 18, 2023
    A global heat wave is pushing temperatures in the Mediterranean region to new record highs. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said July this year was 0.43 degrees warmer than any July on record. “The science is clear, this is not normal,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS.

  • Americans are flocking to areas experiencing the most severe effects of climate change

    Nerd wallet | August 8, 2023
    “Extreme heat and humidity will very much become a reality no matter where you move to,” says Alex D. Scherbinin, senior research scientist at Columbia University’s School of Climate. “But the life-threatening damage from these kinds of things will be more limited to some areas than others.”

  • Large swathes of the United States experience brutal summers. It’s a climate wake-up call for many

    News agency | August 7, 2023
    There are some additional ingredients that can combine to form a heat wave, said Radley Horton, a scientist who studies ocean and climate physics at Columbia University. Drier conditions, for example, mean that more of the sun’s energy can go toward heating the air rather than evaporating water from plants and soil. The time of year can also play a role: at latitudes farther from the equator, the Earth’s tilt can result in summer days with 15 or more hours of sunlight—a long period for heat buildup.

  • July heat waves and rising ocean temperatures indicate that severe weather is coming

    Washington Post | July 31, 2023
    Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, largely agrees. “The conditions during this hottest month on record on Earth were shocking, but not surprising,” he said. As the hot summer of 2023 approaches August, with another round of warnings about high temperatures, scientists and environmental advocates are hopeful that the latest extreme events will spur the kind of global collective action that has been largely absent.

  • Antarctica has a winter sea ice deficit four times the size of Texas

    Axios | July 31, 2023
    Scientists do not know the cause of this shortage, but they are deeply concerned about its consequences, as sea ice affects the planet’s climate, global ocean currents, and marine ecosystems. Letty Roach, an associate research scientist at Columbia University, said she was particularly concerned about seeing a sea-ice shortage occur at the same time that the scorching heat is breaking global temperature records.

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