July Hottest Month Ever; Human Impact Contributes; Greenland Melts; Europe Burns

GENEVA, Switzerland

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Copernicus Climate Change Programme data indicates that July 2019 equalled, if not surpassed, the hottest month on record. June was also the hottest June on record. This is particularly significant insofar as there was an absence of an El Niño effect this year, that normally raises global temperatures.

The data, issued August 1, suggests 2015 through 2019 will be the five hottest years on record.

The heatwaves in July throughout Europe caused disruption to transport and infrastructure and additional stress on health and the environment. As the heat spread northwards, it accelerated ice melt.

“July has re-written climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“The extraordinary heat was accompanied by dramatic ice melt in Greenland, in the Arctic and on European glaciers. Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action,” Taalas said.

WMO warns that climate change is accelerating and that time to reverse its effects is running out.

The unusual and extremely high temperatures are expected to accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which already has already experienced an extensive melt episode between 11 and 20 June. The persistent high melt and runoff in the last few weeks means the season total is running near to the 2012 record high loss, according to Polar climate scientists monitoring the Greenland ice sheet.

High temperatures also exacerbated wildfires in the Arctic, including in Greenland, Alaska and Siberia.

The WMO also reports that the Russian Federal Forestry Agency estimates that, as of 29 July, wildfires in Siberia have burned 33,200 square kilometres. There were 745 active fires, causing massive ecological devastation and impacting air quality for hundreds of kilometers. The smoke can be seen from space.

“By burning vegetation, the fires also reduce the capacity of the biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide. Action against climate change necessitates rather that we should expand this capacity,” said Oksana Tarasova, Chief of WMO’s Atmosphere and Environment Research Division.

The high temperatures are also accompanied by lower-than-average precipitation. Large parts of Central and Northeast Europe received about 60 to 80 percent of normal precipitation in June, with scarce rainfall in July. Forecasts also show continuation of diminished rainfall.

Drought conditions can result in harvest losses, forest fires, lack of animal food water restrictions, restrictions of ship traffic due to low water levels.

“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change. This is consistent with the scientific finding showing evidence of more frequent, drawn out and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures,” according to Johannes Cullmann, Director of WMO’s Climate and Water Department.

It is believed that human-influenced climate change is likely to have added 1.5-3 ºC to the extreme temperatures recorded during Europe’s July 2019.

“It is noteworthy that every heatwave analysed so far in Europe in recent years (2003, 2010, 2015, 2017, 2018, June 2019, this study) was found to be made much more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change. How much more depends very strongly on the event definition: location, season, intensity and duration. The July 2019 heatwave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change,” according to World Weather Attribution.

WMO also reports Russian Federal Forestry Agency estimates that, as of 29 July, wildfires in Siberia have burned 33,200 square kilometres. There were 745 active fires, causing massive ecological devastation and impacting air quality for hundreds of kilometers. The smoke can be seen from space.

“By burning vegetation, the fires also reduce the capacity of the biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide. Action against climate change necessitates rather that we should expand this capacity,” said Oksana Tarasova, Chief of WMO’s Atmosphere and Environment Research Division.

“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change. This is consistent with the scientific finding showing evidence of more frequent, drawn out and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures,” according to Johannes Cullmann, Director of WMO’s Climate and Water Department.

Free