Too Hot, Too Cold : The planet is witnessing extreme temperatures

Climate change

Climate change has made some of the places unlivable. The most common migration trend that is being observed is that people are moving away from the equator and the coastlines and moving towards temperate regions.

It is predicted that over the next fifty years, with hotter temperatures compounded with the ever-increasing humidity, large areas on the planet are soon going to be uninhabitable. The temperature near Earth’s surface has gone up by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, which might not seem like a lot on the surface (pun not intended) but has cataclysmic consequences.

In Italy, a red alert was issued in many cities, which meant the heat was so intense it posed a threat to the entire population. Millions near the equator, like the people in the Sub-Saharan countries, are facing the strain of rising temperatures.

Nasa scientists have said 2023 could be the warmest year to be recorded. 2024 could be even hotter. July 2023 was the hottest in the past 174 years. Extreme heat disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized, who often have labour-intensive jobs that require long hours in the heat.

But the real question is if the world is warming, why are winters getting colder? Scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around the link between global warming and extreme cold.

Blizzards and icy weather seem out of place with all the narrative of the planet becoming hotter. What we need to remember is that climate represents the long-term average pattern of the day-to-day fluctuations called weather.

Global warming also causes harsh winter weather. Warmer temperatures mean a warmer atmosphere. When the atmosphere becomes warmer, it holds more moisture which leads to an increase in precipitation, resulting in increased snowfall when temperatures start dropping low.

The world is not being plagued just by heat waves, but also cold waves. Both heat and cold can kill. A little-known fact is that the cold is deadlier. For every death due to heat, there are 9 deaths due to cold. The contrasting phenomenon of simultaneous rise and fall of temperatures can be seen in Russia.

Where Siberia is getting colder, the seas north of Russia like the Barents and Kara are getting warmer, resulting in the melting of ice.

In the West, we recently saw the Blizzard of the century hitting the likes of the USA and Canada. Temperatures were touching – 40 degrees Celsius, and winds were clocking a speed of 90 to 130 kmph.

On average, winters are actually getting warmer and shorter, but few places are experiencing extremely cold temperatures. In fact, winters are 3.2 degrees Celsius shorter. Moreover, wet places are becoming wetter, and dry places are becoming drier. Climate change is altering large-scale atmospheric circular patterns.

A period of intense precipitation is followed by dry periods as well. Warmer temperatures on land lead to reduced snowpack and evaporation of water from freshwater bodies. Extreme heat induces protracted and recurrent heat waves and droughts and can make forest fires worse. Wildfires are harder to douse when the air temperature is high and soil moisture is low.

Another factor responsible for these extreme temperatures this year has been El Nino, and its cold weather equivalent- La Nina, both of which originate from east of the Pacific. El Nino causes warmer than average weather. Conversely, in the winter months, La Nina causes the subcontinent’s winters to become cooler.

These extremities have caused loss of life, population displacement, and disruption of essential services such as transportation, telecommunications, energy, and water supplies.

Though countries have taken steps for mitigation strategies, they will have to do more to adapt to unavoidable heat and cold extremes fueled by a changing climate.

Swati Singh: The Author is the Product Marketing Manager of Oorjan Cleantech ( Oorjan is one of India’s fastest-growing solar companies, co-founded by IITians and ex-bankers.

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