Hundreds of people have died in Canada, Oregon, and Washington as a result of the catastrophic heatwave that has gripped the Pacific Northwest. The blistering temperatures have surpassed all-time records. In the United States, 63 people died as a result of the heatwave. In British Columbia, at least 486 people died suddenly over the course of five days.
On Tuesday, Canada set a new temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.3 degrees Fahrenheit) at Lytton, British Columbia. The northwestern United States has also had record highs, as well as a number of fatalities.
So far, July has brought some relief from the record-breaking heat, as well as some fall weather to portions of eastern Canada. Summer, on the other hand, is far from over in these areas. Extreme weather phenomena, such as heatwaves, are projected to become more common as a result of climate change. However, it is difficult to attribute any particular incident to global warming.
What is causing this extreme weather?
The heat dome above North America is being blamed by experts for this period of high heat. This is in a region that isn't accustomed to such scorching temperatures. The fact that these places are not equipped to handle warm climates has been connected to a high death toll in locations and houses are built to trap heat during harsh winters. Here, homes are not known to have fans or air conditioning. This type of cascade impact could help to explain why the heat dome is creating such extreme temperatures.
What are Heat Domes?
For the heat dome effect to occur, several things must come together.
The western Pacific is comparatively hotter than the easter pacific which makes the air above the west hotter as well. The temperature difference is caused by the fact that the water is moving towards the equator and phenomena like the El Nino(warm) winds. As we know, hot air rises. However, due to a high-pressure belt in this region, hot air is not allowed to rise. There is no other place for it to escape but move eastwards towards the eastern pacific.
Upon reaching the eastern pacific, jet stream, which are chilly fast-moving air currents that travel high in the atmosphere propel it into mainland North America. Jet streams always move from west to east, even the earth’s rotation is responsible for the direction of movement of jet streams.
Upon reaching North America, the hot air is trapped on the mainland because of high-pressure conditions and overlying jet streams. This causes a heat dome. To put it simply, a heat dome is a heatwave that extends for a comparatively longer period of time and is hotter simply because it is trapped.
"A heat dome is basically that trapping dome. The heat event itself is the heatwave, lasting several consecutive days and nights that are well above normal," climate expert Andrea Bair told the National Geographic magazine.
How long can a heat dome last?
A heat dome usually lasts for a week. When the standing air dome becomes too large, it collapses, releasing the trapped air.
Climate change and extreme weather, the future or present?
"Global warming - we have evidence for that, it's real," Natalie Hasell told CTV News Channel Friday that Canadians need to prepare for more extreme weather events. "Unfortunately we are living it already - it's not the future, it's here...so I hope people take the time to get better prepared as we will likely be seeing this more often.
For decades we have been talking about how Climate change and global warming will leave the Earth in a bleak condition in the future. However, it's safe to say that we already are in the future. We no longer have the luxury of getting our act together before we face the brunt of tampering with nature. There are various phenomena that have been amplified by changes in climate
In the western United States, wildfires have always been a part of life. Wildfires are expanding in size, severity, and speed as this region becomes hotter and drier. California wildfires burn about 4 million acres in 2020, an area greater than Connecticut, making it the state's most destructive fire season ever. Experts warn that prolonged dryness on the West Coast of the United States will ignite a disastrous fire season in 2021.
The rise in global temperature
The hottest temperatures — and the number of locations affected by extreme heat — are increasing as global temperatures rise. This means that there will be more searing hot days in more places. Extreme heat raises demand for air conditioning, contributing to carbon pollution and straining our energy grid, potentially resulting in blackouts. It also poses a significant health risk, particularly to the most vulnerable. Since 1880, the total land and ocean temperature have risen at an average pace of 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit ( 0.08 degrees Celsius) every decade, according to NOAA's 2020 Annual Climate Report; however, the average rate of increase since 1981 (0.18°C / 0.32°F) has been more than twice that rate.
Dryer conditions are also associated with higher temperatures. Moisture evaporates from water bodies and soil as global temperatures rise. Droughts have become more severe and long-lasting over the world as a result of climate change. According to a study published in 2020, flash droughts harm 10% to 15% of rice and maize production areas in India each year. In the United States of America, a flash drought hit a wide area of the country in 2012, resulting in an agricultural loss of nearly $30 billion.
Warmer air causes more evaporation, which means there is more water vapor in our atmosphere for storms to pick up and transform into rain or snow. With rising global temperatures, drier areas will likely become dryer, while portions of the planet that have historically seen copious precipitation will only become wetter. From 1950 to 2015, extreme precipitation events in central India increased thrice, according to one study. According to a 2017 World Resources Institute global estimate, India has the highest GDP exposure to river floods ($14.3 billion), a figure that might expand 10-fold by 2030 as the economy grows.
Rising Sea Levels
Ocean waters are warming and growing as the earth warms. Warmer temperatures are also forcing land ice to melt, resulting in more water entering the world's oceans. As a result, in the previous 150 years, the average worldwide sea level has risen eight inches. Since 1880, the global mean sea level has increased 8–9 inches (21–24 cm), with over a third of that occurring in the previous two and a half decades. The worldwide mean sea level in 2019 was 3.4 inches (87.6 millimeters) higher than 1993 normal, making it the highest yearly average in satellite history (1993-present). Between 2018 and 2019, the global sea level rose by 0.24 inches (6.1 millimeters).
What is the world going to look like in the future if climate change is not dealt with?
Our environment is changing at a faster rate than projected. We're suffering the effects of human-caused global warming, from more frequent and severe storms to unprecedented heatwaves. The planet is already 1° C (1.8° F) hotter than it was before the industrial revolution, between 1850 and 1900.
The world in 2050
By 2050, rising sea levels might affect 1 billion people. Coral bleaching occurs when water temperatures change, causing algae to flee coral reefs, rendering them white and making them vulnerable to illness and death.
Every summer, the Arctic sea ice retreats, yet it still covers millions of square kilometers of the ocean today. However, the Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the planet, and ice-free summers may soon be a reality. Heatwaves, like the ones in Canada and the USA, will become more frequent and severe around the world, affecting hundreds of millions or even billions of people if we don't act.
For many years, oceans, forests, plants, trees, and soil had absorbed half of the carbon dioxide we emitted. Few forests remain, with the majority having been logged or burned by wildfire, and permafrost is releasing greenhouse gases into an already overburdened atmosphere.
Coastal cities in Bangladesh, Mexico, the United States, and elsewhere will be devastated by tremendous flooding and infrastructure destruction, killing thousands and displacing millions; some may even perish.
Regardless of whether things pan out exactly as we thought or not; a lack of investment in correcting global warming and climate change will lead to devastation. Not only will it lead to the destruction of nature and ecosystems, but it will also greatly hamper human life. Extreme weather patterns like heat domes and wildfires will be a regular sight, which they are slowly becoming anyway.