“Turbo-charged” climate change: why record-breaking heatwaves have become the new normal

In recent years, we have increasingly experienced extreme weather conditions that have resulted in record-breaking heat waves. Recent heat waves in Europe and the United States have provided evidence that climate change is inescapable and its impact on our planet is becoming increasingly visible. Scientists are talking about “turbo-charged” climate change that is leading to prolonged periods of abnormal heat. In this article, we look at the causes of such changes and their implications for our health, economy and environment.

Climate change and prolonged heat waves

As the planet heats up, we are experiencing more intense and prolonged heat waves. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that heat waves are now 24 hours longer than they were 60 years ago. In the U.S., the heat wave season lasts 49 days longer than it did in the 1960s. This indicates that longer heat waves have become the new normal.

Health effects of heat waves

Prolonged heat waves have serious effects on our health. The body only begins to recover at temperatures below 27°C (80°F), so even small increases in temperature can lead to increased mortality and morbidity. “Extreme heat is killer heat,” says Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States. Multi-day heat waves are a particular threat because humans can’t handle them for so long.

Causes of prolonged heat waves

One cause of prolonged heat waves is an installed high-pressure system that causes temperatures to rise each day. In addition, the sun heats up the sea, which causes a feedback loop and prolongs the heat wave on land. Saharan dust clouds also worsen conditions, intensifying the heat wave. The Mediterranean region is experiencing unusually high sea surface temperatures, exacerbating the effects of the heat wave on adjacent areas.

Implications for the UK and global economy

While the UK may feel relieved to escape the deadly temperatures of continental Europe, the effects of climate change will inevitably reach us too. Gareth Redmond-King, international program manager for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says extreme heat, droughts and flooding around the world are already having a direct impact on the UK. Food supplies are restricted due to climate disasters, driving up food prices.

The need for action

To cope with the effects of climate change and prolonged heat waves, action is needed. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy sources, adapting to new conditions and protecting vulnerable groups. Scientists and climate experts call on governments and society as a whole to take an active role in the fight against climate change.

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