Summer of 2013 brings record breaking heat to Asia, Europe, and North America

• August 15, 2013
record breaking heat

Hazy sunset over Shanghai, Creative Commons: Gache Wurzn, 2008

People across Asia, Europe, and North America are experiencing sweltering high temperatures this summer in the Northern Hemisphere, with the kind of record breaking heat events that are more frequent due to climate change.

In Asia, the normally cold region of Siberia hit temperatures of 32°C (90°F) in July. Summer temperatures in the area average around 15°C to 19°C (60°F to 66°F), and the unusually high heat is contributing to the troubling spread of naturally-occurring wildfires across a much larger range, including farther north into the taiga than is normal.

Shanghai experienced its hottest July in 140 years, with temperatures above 37°C (100°F) for ten straight days. After setting an all-time high temperature on July 26th, the city surpassed the record again less than two weeks later on August 7th with a temperature of 40.8°C (105.4°F).

In a second peak to Japan’s summer heat, the nation registered a new record high temperature of 41°C (106°F) in two of its provinces, breaking an old record set in 2007. The nation’s weather agency issued heat warnings after at least nine people died from heatstroke over the weekend.

This July has been the hottest in Europe since 2006, and the heat wave has yet to subside. For the first time since record keeping began in 1858, several locations in Austria surpassed 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures this past week.

Temperatures across the three northern territories in Canada are about ten degrees above normal this week. Like conditions in SIberia, the exceptional heat is contributing to a rash of extended wildfires in northern Canada and even in Alaska.

Maureen Clark, an officer with the Alaska Fire Service, said:

These conditions are very unusual for us at this time of year. Usually, by August we have rain, and that puts an end to our fire season.

These exceptional heat events across the Northern Hemisphere follow on extreme summer heat seen in the Southern Hemisphere during its summer of 2012-2013. In Australia, the summer months were the hottest ever recorded in the nation, and Australia’s Climate Commission linked the above-average heat to the influence of climate change.

The summer heat of 2013 continues the larger pattern of rising world temperatures and more intense heat events caused by climate change. Since 2000, the entire world has been experiencing unprecedented weather extremes, including above-average temperatures: every year between 2001 and 2010 was among the 10 warmest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. The decade from 2000 to 2009 was the hottest ever recorded.


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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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