Unbearable heat everywhere

ByMalik Nasir Mahmood Aslam

Seasoned social activist


August 2, 2023

Unbearable heat

Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam describes an untenable

Unbearable heat – The increasing heat levels around the globe has badly unnerved people and increased pressure on the policy makers dealing with climate change issues. The current heat-wave has gripped the Earth with record heat experienced in almost all continents with tens of millions battling dangerously high temperatures bringing to fore yet again the horrors of global warming. This year, even before the northern hemisphere hot season began, tempera¬ture records were being shattered. Spain for instance saw temperatures in April reaching 38.8°C that would be out of the ordinary even at the peak of summer. South and South-East Asia in particular were hammered by a very persistent heat-wave and all-time record temp¬eratures were experienced in countries such as Vietnam and Thailand reaching 44°C and 45°C respe¬ctively. In Singapore, the more modest record was also broken, as temperatures hit 37°C and in China, Shanghai just recorded its highest May temperature for over a century at 36.7°C. Pakistan sizzled with high temperatures and many records were broken particularly in the eastern and southern plains that recently suffered from devastating rains and floods. It is acknowledged that climate change results in bringing about high temperatures, but also that heatwaves of similar magnitudes can have very different impacts depending on factors like humidity or how prepared an area is for extreme heat. In this context Karachi witnessed a long spell of high level of humidity accompanied by searing heat.

It is pointed out that 3 July was the hottest day ever recorded globally and in this context the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed that beginning of July was the hottest week on record for the planet that after a series of scorching days saw global temperature records tumble. It is the latest in a series of records halfway through a year that has already seen a drought in Spain and fierce heat waves in China as well the United States. Temperatures are breaking records both on land and in the oceans with potentially devastating impacts on ecosystems and the environment. Experts point out that in this respect they are in uncharted territory and can expect more records to fall as El Nino develops further and these impacts will extend into 2024. They underline that this is the worrying news for the planet as is borne out by data obtained from various climate monitoring services that point out that last week was likely to be the hottest since records began in 1940. The UN Secretary General stated that the situation witnessed now is the demonstration that climate change is out of control. As well as withering crops, melting glaciers and raising the risk of wildfires, higher-than-normal temperatures also cause health problems ranging from heatstroke and dehydration to cardiovascular stress. The world has warmed an average of nearly 1.2 C since the mid-1800s unleashing extreme weather including more intense heatwaves more severe droughts in some areas and storms made fiercer by rising seas.

The average global temperature reached 17.01 degrees Celsius, surpassing the August 2016 record of 16.92 degrees Celsius as heatwaves sizzled around the world. The southern US has been suffering under an intense heat-wave in recent weeks. In China, an enduring heat-wave continued with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius. North Africa has seen temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius and even Antarctica, currently in its winter, registered anomalously high temperatures. Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base in the white continent’s Argentine Islands recently broke its July temperature record with 8.7 degrees Celsius. Scientists said climate change, combined with an emerging El Nino pattern was to blame. The hazardous grip of heat is also witnessed in Italy that recorded historic highs with the health ministry issuing a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are estimated to wilt under temperatures as high as 48 degrees Celsius, potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe. Greece is also roasting as parts of the country could see highs as much as 44 degrees Celsius as the central city of Thebes sweated under 44.2 degrees Celsius. The Acropolis, Athens’s top tourist attraction, closed for a second day straight during the hottest hours with 41 degrees Celsius expected, as did several parks in the capital.

Regions of France, Germany, Spain and Poland are also baking in searing temperatures. Parts of eastern Japan also reached 38-39 degrees Celsius with the meteorological agency warning temperatures could hit previous records. Meanwhile, the northern city of Akita saw more rain in half a day than is typical for the whole month of July with the downpours triggering at least one landslide, forcing 9,000 people to evacuate their homes. Torrential rains described by the meteorological agency as the heaviest rain ever experienced have also hit southern Japan in recent weeks, leaving at least 11 people dead. Relentless monsoon rains have reportedly killed at least 90 people in northern India, after burning heat. The Yamuna River running through the capital New Delhi has reached a record high of 208.66 metres, more than a metre over the flood top set in 1978, threatening low-lying neighbourhoods in the megacity of more than 20 million people. Major flooding and landslides are common during India’s monsoons, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency and severity.

Americans are watching as a powerful heat-wave stretches from California to Texas, with its peak expected this weekend. In Arizona, one of the hardest-hit states, residents face a daily endurance marathon against the sun. State capital Phoenix was to record its 15th straight day above 43 degrees Celsius. Authorities have been sounding the alarm, advising people to avoid outdoor activities in the daytime and to be wary of dehydration. The Las Vegas weather service warned that assuming high temperatures naturally come with the area’s desert climate but this heat-wave is not typical desert heat. California’s Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, is also likely to register new peaks with the mercury possibly rising to 54 degrees Celsius. Southern California is fighting numerous wildfires, including one in Riverside County that has burned over 3,000 acres and prompted evacuation orders. Morocco may be used to hot weather but it was slated for above-average temperatures this weekend with highs of 47 degrees Celsius in some provinces that were known to come in August instead of July sparking concerns for water shortages. Water-scarce Jordan was forced to dump 214 tons of water on a wildfire that broke out in the Ajloun forest in the north amid a heatwave. It is more than clear that global warming linked to dependence on fossil fuels is behind the multiplication and intensification of heat waves in the world.

The recent heatwave in south-east Asia may well be remembered for its level of heat-induced stress on the body. Heat stress is mostly caused by temperature but other weather-related factors such as humidity, radiation and wind are also important. The fact is highlighted that regions most at risk of exceeding these thresholds with literal hotspots including India and Pakistan, South-East Asia, the Arabian peninsula, equatorial Africa, equatorial South America and Australia. In these regions heat stress thresholds are exceeded with increased frequency with greater global warming. In reality, most people are already vulnerable well below the survivability thresholds such as a certain area might trap heat more efficiently than its surroundings. The Weekender


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