Heat waves ravaging Asia, Europe and North America. They could make 2023 the hottest year on record. Why is the planet so hot? Is there a solution in sight?
Record temperatures will worsen even if humanity will drastically reduce its emissions of planet-warming gases. The Pacific warming phenomenon known as El Niño is contributing to that.
Just the beginning
“That event is just beginning. It’s only a small part of the effect,” Robert Rohde wrote in an analysis. He works with the U.S. temperature monitoring group Berkeley Earth. They believe there was an 81% chance that 2023 will become the warmest year since records began.
Dust and sulfur
The warming of the Atlantic may also have been accentuated by the decline of two substances. These tend to reflect sunlight away from the ocean. The first is dust blowing in from the Sahara desert. Unusually weak trade winds caused this. And the other is sulfur aerosols from ship fuel. Current regulations cause this. In Europe, “the warm air that came from Africa is staying in place. The heat in the sea, land and warm air continues to increase,” added Hannah Cloke. She is a climatologist at the University of Reading.
This month’s heat waves “are not a single phenomenon. They are several acting at the same time,” comments Robert Vautard. He is director of the French climate institute Pierre-Simon Laplace. “But they are all reinforced by one factor: climate change.” Rising global temperatures are making heat waves longer and more intense. Reducing fossil fuel emissions can play a role in reversing this state.
More heat in the future
The study argued that heat waves risk becoming more frequent and intense. Governments can limit climate change by reducing countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. “This is just the beginning,” reckons Simon Lewis. He is Professor of Global Change Science at University College London.
“We must make a deep, rapid and sustained cut in carbon emissions to zero. It can stop warming. But humanity will have to adapt to even more severe heat waves in the future.”
Why is the planet so hot? Largely because of the species that inhabits it: man.