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ENVIRONMENT

How The Local’s countries are impacted as July records Earth’s hottest month EVER

July 2021 marks the month with the highest temperatures since records began 142 years ago, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Here's how the rising temperatures are affecting countries covered by The Local.

How The Local's countries are impacted as July records Earth's hottest month EVER
Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

The combined land and ocean-surface temperature around the world was 0.93 of a degree C (1.67F) above the 20th century average of 15.8 C (60.4F), new global data from NOAA revealed.

It was also 0.01 of a degree C (0.02F) higher than the previous record set in July 2016, which was repeated in 2019 and 2020.

“In this case, first place is the worst place to be,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D.

“July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” he added.

The year-to-date (January-July) global surface temperature tied as the sixth highest on record. According to NOAA’s temperature rankings outlook, it is very likely that the year 2021 will rank among the 10 warmest years on record.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the land-surface only temperature was the highest ever documented for July, at an unprecedented 1.54 degrees C (2.77 degrees F) above the 20th century average temperature. This beat the previous record set in 2012.

A woman cools off in Rome. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Europe reported its second ever hottest July on record, with several parts of southern Europe reaching temperatures of above 40 degrees C.

Sicily in Italy may have registered the hottest temperature ever in Europe, with a scorching 48.8 degrees C reported near Syracuse this week – although this still needs to be verified.

A map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during July 2021. Source: NOAA.

The levels of extreme heat reported by NOAA echoes the impact of a global environment in flux, revealed in a key study released this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists from across the globe delivered the most up-to-date assessment of the ways in which the climate is changing,” said Spinrad.

“It is a sobering IPCC report that finds that human influence is, unequivocally, causing climate change, and it confirms the impacts are widespread and rapidly intensifying.”

The report found that the impacts of climate change that scientists have been warning about for years are already happening. 

Countries covered by The Local have noted how climate change has affected residents and nature on localised levels.

Norway reported that the county can expect less snow, more heatwaves and more floods.

 Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Several Norwegian researchers contributed to the report. Bjørn Hallvard Samset is one of those researchers and said that the biggest effects in Norway would be felt in southern Norway and the Arctic.

If the temperature were to rise by two degrees, then permafrost around the globe will begin to thaw, and glaciers will melt, according to the researchers. 

This would have a dramatic impact on Norway, according to one of the Norwegian researchers and contributors the report, Jana Sillmann.

“In Norway and the Arctic, we will most likely experience that less snow and more flooding will affect energy production, infrastructure and winter tourism,” she said.

Meanwhile in Italy, scientists have observed an increase in droughts and project an increase in aridity and fire weather conditions.

READ ALSO: Six shocking statistics about the climate crisis in Italy

Coastal areas are expected to witness continued sea-level rises throughout the 21st century, which could lead to more frequent and severe flooding and coastal erosion – cities such as Venice, which is already under environmental pressure, are particularly under threat.

If no additional climate policies are adopted, Venice could experience an increase in sea levels by as much as 0.87 metres by the end of the century.

The sun setting over the Austrian alps. Climate change is likely to have a serious impact on Austria’s glaciers. Joël SAGET / AFP

Austria has discovered that future projections are not good, with researchers anticipating mountainous regions to be particularly impacted by rising temperatures in the coming decades.

The IPCC warned that Austria could warm up by as much as five degrees by 2100 if nothing is done to stop global carbon emissions.

READ ALSO: ‘Cool streets’ and pedestrian zones: How Vienna is preparing for climate change and heatwaves

Glacier researcher, Sarah Braumann, also recently told ORF that Austria’s Ochsentaler Glacier, the largest in the Vorarlberg state in western Austria, could be gone in five decades if the ice continues to recede.

For a country that heavily depends on winter tourism, this is sobering news.

Over in France, the country has experienced extreme heat, wildfires and hailstorms this summer.

Spain braces for wildfires as heatwave approaches. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

The Local spoke to French climatologist Françoise Vimeux about the likely effects of climate change in future years, who told us that there is likely to be less rain in the summer but more “extreme rains over a very specific period and very locally, because our atmosphere will be loaded with water”.

READ ALSO French winemakers count cost of ‘worst freeze in decades’

Localised flooding, extreme heat and storms are expected in France over the decades to come.

Spain is also witnessing extreme weather events as wildfires sweep across the country, with temperatures of upwards of 40 degrees C recorded across the Iberian peninsula.

The country’s environment ministry revealed in May that Spain experienced the highest temperatures in 2020 since records began.

READ ALSO: What to do and what to avoid if you witness a forest fire in Spain

Spain’s average temperatures hit 14.8 degrees celsius last year. That’s around 1.7 degrees hotter than the average in pre-industrial times, according to the ministry’s report.

Climate change is also making its effects known in Sweden, where its forests are increasingly under pressure and fewer old trees are being observed.

Like Spain, Sweden also recorded its hottest year in 2020, hitting the highest temperatures since records began 160 years before.

The mountainous regions of Switzerland are also suffering the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures have dramatically altered the Swiss Alp landscape at a quicker pace than expected, as melting glaciers have created more than 1,000 new lakes across in the mountains.

 Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Glaciers in the Swiss Alps are in steady decline, losing a full two percent of their volume last year alone, according to an annual study published by the Swiss Academies of Science.

And even if the world were to fully implement the 2015 Paris Agreement – which calls for capping global warming at at least two degrees Celsius – two-thirds of the Alpine glaciers will likely be lost, according to a 2019 study by the ETH technical university in Zurich.

Referring to the IPCC study, Germany’s environmental minister said time is running out to rescue Earth.

Germany has felt the deadly impact of more extreme weather events, as the nation experienced severe flooding that claimed the lives of more than 180 people and devastated communities.

READ ALSO:

Meanwhile in Denmark, it’s expected the environment will get much wetter, as both Northern Europe and Greenland are expected to face some of the largest increases in heavy precipitation events if the global mean temperature rises from 1.5 degrees C to 2 degrees C.

Martin Olesen, a climate researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told DR that Denmark could expect between 60 to 80 percent more cloud bursts by 2100. In other words, that’s more than 15mm of rain in an hour. 

At the other end of the scale, Denmark can also expect to see more heatwaves by the end of the century too, even possibly attracting more tourism at the expense of southern Europe.

READ ALSO: Denmark must lead by example to prevent grim future in IPCC report: climate minister

Amid the alarming environmental threats unfolding and grim predictions for the future, human actions can still determine the Earth’s climate in the future for the better, according to the IPCC’s report.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.

But it means there is now a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which she stated is “essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare,”.

NOAA’s Spinrad added, “We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly, and irreversible future climate impacts. It is the consensus of the world’s scientists that we need strong, and sustained reduction in greenhouse gases.”

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CLIMATE CRISIS

EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

From deadly wildfires to catastrophic floods, Europe is seeing the impact of the climate crisis with episodes of extreme weather only likely to increase in the coming years as average temperatures rise.

EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Europe endured record extreme weather in 2021, from the hottest day and the warmest summer to deadly wildfires and
flooding, the European Union’s climate monitoring service reported Friday.

While Earth’s surface was nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels last year, Europe saw an average increase of more than two degrees, a threshold beyond which dangerous extreme weather events become
more likely and intense, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

The warmest summer on record featured a heatwave along the Mediterranean rim lasting weeks and the hottest day ever registered in Europe, a blistering 48.8C (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in Italy’s Sicily.

In Greece, high temperatures fuelled deadly wildfires described by the prime minister as the country’s “greatest ecological disaster in decades”.

Forests and homes across more than 8,000 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) were burned to the ground.

Front loaders work to move branches and uprooted trees near a bridge over the Ahr river in Insul, Ahrweiler district, western Germany, on July 28, 2021, weeks after heavy rain and floods caused major damage in the Ahr region. – At least 180 people died when severe floods pummelled western Germany over two days in mid-July, raising questions about whether enough was done to warn residents ahead of time. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann / AFP)

A slow-moving, low-pressure system over Germany, meanwhile, broke the record in mid-July for the most rain dumped in a single day.

The downpour was nourished by another unprecedented weather extreme, surface water temperatures over part of the Baltic Sea more than 5C above average.

Flooding in Germany and Belgium caused by the heavy rain — made far more likely by climate change, according to peer-reviewed studies — killed scores and caused billions of euros in damage.

As the climate continues to warm, flooding on this scale will become more frequent, the EU climate monitor has warned.

“2021 was a year of extremes including the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, flooding and wind droughts in western Europe,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement.

“This shows that the understanding of weather and climate extremes is becoming increasingly relevant for key sectors of society.”     

A picture taken on July 15, 2021 shows damaged cars on a flooded street in the Belgian city of Verviers, after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe, killing at least two people in Belgium. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

‘Running out of time’

The annual report, in its fifth edition, also detailed weather extremes in the Arctic, which has warmed 3C above the 19th-century benchmark — nearly three times the global average.

Carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires, mostly in eastern Siberia, topped 16 million tonnes of CO2, roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon pollution of Bolivia.

Greenland’s ice sheet — which along with the West Antarctic ice sheet has become the main driver of sea level rise — shed some 400 billion tonnes in mass in 2021.

The pace at which the world’s ice sheets are disintegrating has accelerated more than three-fold in the last 30 years.

“Scientific experts like the IPCC have warned us we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5C,” said Mauro Facchini, head of Earth observation at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, referring to the UN’s science advisory panel.

“This report stresses the urgent necessity to act as climate-related extreme events are already occurring.”

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