June 24, 2024

Extreme heat sets records, gives health warnings in Europe, USA | Climate Crisis News

Much of southern and eastern Europe has been put on red alert for heatwaves and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned of an increased risk of death as extreme weather hits the continent, in Asia and the United States.

The Italian island of Sardinia could see highs of more than 47 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, and forecasters said temperatures could hit 40C (104F) in some Italian cities, including 42C-43C (107F -109F) in the Lazio region including Rome.

With baking temperatures hitting Europe during the peak summer tourist season, the heat wave in the northern hemisphere is set to intensify, said WMO, the United Nations weather agency.

Around 61,000 people may have died during heat waves in Europe alone last year.

The European Union’s Emergency Response Coordination Center has issued red alerts for high temperatures for most of Italy, northeastern Spain, Croatia, Serbia, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

In Italy, civil defense workers monitored the crowds for people suffering from the heat in central Rome, while Red Cross teams in Portugal took to social media to warn people not to leave pets or children in parked cars . In Greece, volunteers handed out drinking water, and in Spain they reminded people to protect themselves from breathing smoke from fires.

Some countries are taking extra steps to protect public health during the sweltering summer of 2023.

Authorities in Greece introduced changes to working hours last week and ordered the Acropolis and other ancient sites to close in the evening to allow workers to cope with the high heat.

‘Long’ heatwaves

Heat records are being broken around the world, and scientists say there is a good chance that 2023 will go down as the hottest year on record, with measurements going back to the mid-19th century.

This summer’s heatwaves – which saw temperatures rise to 53C (127F) in Death Valley in California in the US and over 52C (125F) in north-west China – have been accompanied by wildfires from Greece to the Swiss Alps and floods deadly in India and South Korea.

They have added new urgency to talks this week between the US and China, the world’s top greenhouse gas polluters.

US climate envoy John Kerry met Chinese officials in Beijing and expressed hope that climate cooperation could redefine troubled ties between the two powers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized Beijing’s commitment to carbon neutrality and said a carbon peak was certain but would not be influenced by others.

“Temperatures in North America, Asia, and across North Africa and the Mediterranean will be above 40C (104F) for a long number of days this week as the heat wave intensifies,” the WMO warned.

Minimum overnight temperatures were also expected to reach new highs, the WMO said, creating the risk of an increase in cases of heart attacks and deaths.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from Nevada in the United States, said that while high temperatures are typical in the desert, what is unusual is that it has been “for so long”.

“It’s been going on for a long time here and throughout the southwestern United States,” Saloomey said.

“We’ve seen a lot of cities breaking daily records and records for long periods of time in Phoenix, Arizona,” she said.

“The National Weather Service is telling people here: ‘You may think you’re used to living in the desert, but this is no ordinary desert weather.'”

High temperatures ‘common’

Scientists have long warned that climate change, caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, will make heat waves more frequent, more intense and more deadly. They say governments must take massive action to reduce emissions.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service says 2022 and 2021 were the hottest summers on record. The highest recorded temperature in Europe of 48.8C (119.8F) was registered in Sicily two years ago.

In Italy, the health ministry issued red weather alerts for 20 of the country’s 27 capitals on Tuesday, and the number is expected to rise to 23 on Wednesday.

Areas of Spain’s north-east regions of Catalonia and Aragon, and the Mediterranean island of Mallorca were on alert for temperatures above 40C (104F) on Tuesday. The Catalan Weather Service said the mercury reached 45C (113F) at the Boadella Reservoir near the village of Darnius, the highest temperature ever recorded in the region.

Temperatures on Monday night did not fall below 25C (77F) in many parts of the Mediterranean coast and the interior of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain’s weather agency AEMET said.

In Greece, authorities told citizens near a forest fire in Dervenochoria, north of Athens, to close doors and windows as smoke approached.

And in parts of Asia, record high temperatures triggered torrential rain.

Nearly 260,000 people were evacuated in southern China and Vietnam before the typhoon made landfall late Monday, bringing fierce winds and rain, but weakening to a tropical storm by Tuesday.

China reported a new mid-July high of 52.2C (126F) in the village of Sanbao in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, breaking the previous high of 50.6C (123.1F) set six years ago.

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said the “severe heat wave” in northern China will last for another 10 days, according to authorities.

“Temperatures above 40C (104F) used to be rare, and now it’s common,” Yu said.

Along with the agricultural output that has been affected, there are also animal and livestock welfare concerns, she said.

In Japan, heat stroke alerts were issued in 32 of 47 prefectures, mainly in the central and southwestern regions, and at least 60 people were treated for heat stroke, the media reported.

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