There was a time in recent history when extreme Summer temperatures were only as common as extreme Winter temperatures. Anyone who’s even been remotely paying attention to the weather lately is well aware that the climate is changing. In the United States, Texas has experienced the worse year-long drought in the Lone Star state’s history, suffering from the hottest summer recorded in the US. Not only have these extreme temperatures left Texas short on water supplies, they have also damaged billions of dollars worth of crops (which also raises food prices) and left a large portion of the state burnt due to wildfires.
It is currently estimated that Texas has suffered $5.2 billion in agricultural losses due to drought caused by extreme temperatures. Cash crops such as cotton, wheat and corn have been especially hard hit; not to mention the struggle ranchers face in feeding their cattle. With no end currently in sight, it’s predicted that if the drought continues for much longer, Winter wheat crops will be lost, causing the drought to be even more expensive.
But Texas is not alone in it’s suffering from extreme heat. In fact, in a large portion of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, unusually high temperatures have been breaking records throughout the summer.
The prognosis is not good. Temperatures considered unusually high today will be the norm in the future. Extremely hot summers will eventually become the new norm, due largely to manmade global warming.
Scientists fear that in a short amount of time, the planet will reach the two degree Celsius warned threshold — increased by heat-trapping gases blanketing the atmosphere. In the past 60 years alone, the planet’s temperature has risen 0.8 degrees Celsius above the planet’s temperature prior to the Industrial Era. This could mean catastrophic changes to the planet (And I think we’re already seeing some of that, but just a taster..).
The garage door is quickly closing on our window of opportunity to act. Scientists estimate that within the next decade or so, extremely hot temperatures will occur every Summer in regions that only occasionally experience extreme temperatures. Warming of the planet is occurring globally, affecting many regions of the globe, such as Africa, the Southeastern and central parts of Asia, the Amazon, and Indonesia. The U.S. is on the brink of experiencing the same fate as the rest of the world.
Climate scientists hypothesize that over the next few decades, the combination of changing weather patterns and warmer temperatures will cause the extremes to change quickly. In fact, it is guessed that by the middle of the next century, huge sections of the globe will have heated up so fast, the coolest summer will still be hotter than the hottest temperatures occurring over the past 50 years.
Record breaking temperatures are quickly becoming the new norm, as well as the wild weather patterns that come with that, and the heat extremes are only projected to get worse. Temperatures are expected to keep rising, not only in the West, but in the Midwest and Southeast as well. Temperature extremes are certain to change entire seasons, which will, no doubt, have huge effects on agriculture, availability of water and susceptibility to wildfires.
Photo credit: Kevin Law