People have taken to social media to decry the current circumstances, but the world really is on fire.
The weather is really hot, in case you hadn’t noticed. In addition to being extremely hot, the current heatwave sweeping over Europe is shattering past records and replicating forecasts of the disastrous repercussions of climate change, except that it is occurring 30 years earlier than was anticipated.
In 2020, the @metoffice produced a hypothetical weather forecast for 23 July 2050 based on UK climate projections.— Dr Simon Lee (@SimonLeeWx) July 15, 2022
Today, the forecast for Tuesday is shockingly almost identical for large parts of the country. pic.twitter.com/U5hQhZwoTi
The warmest night on record just occurred in England, where temperatures are anticipated to hit 41 °C (106 °F), while regions in France reached 43 °C on Monday and blazing flames are raging in Spain. The UK government was compelled to issue the first-ever amber warning, advising citizens to stay indoors due to the danger the heat posed to their lives.
Given all of this, you might anticipate that a lot more people are now aware of the true effects of climate change. After all, this heatwave isn’t even occurring during an El Nino, which is known for its high temperatures. However, many have argued that these temperatures are not significant considering the UK experienced about the same heat in 1976. Are the current heatwave and 1976 even remotely comparable, or is this just climate denial?
Compared to 2022, the 1976 heat wave
The UK saw its warmest temperatures since records have been kept in 1976. One of the warmest and driest summers in the whole 20th century, it was marked by severe drought in England and Ireland and a heatwave that resulted in 20% more “excess deaths” than usual for 16 consecutive days.
The summer of 1976 peaked with a temperature of 35.9 °C. Nevertheless, despite the extreme heat, this was a remarkably unusual occurrence that had not happened in many years.
Compare that to the heatwave in 2022. The peak temperature is predicted to be 41 °C, although temperatures have already surpassed 1976 and broken the previous record in certain spots. However, that record was only set in 2019, when 38.7 °C was recorded at Cambridge, UK. Records are being broken at an alarming rate, and the regularity of hot, dry summers is becoming increasingly obvious.
According to a 2020 Met Office climate study, the average temperature has increased during the past 30 years, and nine out of ten of the hottest days on record have occurred during that time.
According to Professor Hannah Cloke, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, “1976 was undoubtedly a heatwave and we have had heatwaves before, but the point is they’re happening more often and becoming more intense.”
But, taking a global view is important. Variations in the weather mean that locally some years are hotter & some cooler.— Ed Hawkins (@ed_hawkins) June 20, 2022
1976 clearly stands out as unusual. It was far cooler virtually everywhere when compared to the last 8 summers.
The UK happened to be an exception that year. pic.twitter.com/2662wcpCfp
That’s not all, though. The entire world is boiling, not just the UK, at a level well exceeding 1976. Using a NASA map of climate anomalies, it is clear that the 1976 heatwave was considerably less powerful and broad than the 2022 heatwave.
Because of this, the UK and other nations have recently suffered heatwaves that pale in contrast to those of 1976, setting and breaking new records along the way. The Met Office and raw data both state that these factors have a direct correlation to climate change, including the increase in average temperature and the intensification and frequency of unusual events like this one. It might be time to pay attention.