These 7 maps show how historically hot it is in Europe and the United States
UK braces for record temperatures as ‘thermal apocalypse’ hits Europe
For the first time, the UK Met Office has issued a red heat warning, its most extreme alert. The warning, in effect until Tuesday, covers Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham and London.
Wales already set its highest temperature on record on Monday, and England could be next Tuesday, with temperatures of up to 104 degrees (40 degrees Celsius).
Meanwhile, another heat wave is brewing across the pond in the United States – one that produced a tie for Salt Lake City’s highest temperature on Sunday and could bring readings as high as 113 degrees to the Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday.
A third heat wave is simmering in Central Asia.
These heat waves are part of a pattern of increasingly frequent, intense and prolonged events catalyzed by climate change. Human activities are already pushing high-end heat into record territory.
These seven maps and charts illustrate their seriousness and historical nature:
1. Temperatures 36 degrees (20 Celsius) above normal in the UK
A good indicator of the unusualness of an event can be found by looking at anomalies or deviations from the mean. The map above is in degrees Celsius, but the color scheme is telling.
Showing anomalies up to 20 degrees Celsius or 36 degrees Fahrenheit, it is an illustration of the gap between current temperatures and the norm. A typical July afternoon in the UK would have readings in the 70s (low 20 degrees Celsius), but high temperatures should end up on either side of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Remember how far north the UK is: London is a latitude slightly north of Calgary.
2. A glimpse of the future
The maximum temperature forecast in the UK until Tuesday could approach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Celsius), which would set a new national record, beating the previous mark of 101.7 degrees (38.7 degrees Celsius) set in Cambridge , in the east of England, on July 25, 2019.
In 2020, the UK Met Office released projections indicating that such heat would become commonplace by 2050 due to human-induced climate change.
Already, global warming has greatly increased the risks of such extreme temperatures.
“The chances of seeing 40°C [104 degrees] days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” said Met Office climate attribution scientist Nikos Christidis. “The likelihood of exceeding 40C anywhere in the UK in any given year has also risen rapidly and, even with current promises to cut emissions, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the climate of 2100.”
3. Unprecedented average temperatures
This is a depiction of the European weather model output as early as Friday July 8, when the models began to capture the exceptional nature of the ongoing event in Europe.
It plots temperatures of 850 millibars, or those just under a mile above the ground. Instead of displaying raw temperature, however, the plot maps readings based on percentile. Anything in magenta is listed in the color bar below as “record max” – in other words, the weather model didn’t project such hot temperatures at this time of year, at this altitude and at this place before. In other words, the air mass at mid levels is unprecedented.
Not surprisingly, warm air aloft leads to even warmer air near the surface. This supports record readings that are both remarkable and deadly.
We haven’t seen anything like it. We cannot compare this impending heat emergency to the summer of 1976.
A warmer world, thanks to human-induced climate change, makes crossing extreme heat thresholds almost effortless. We continue to see this across the planet – not just in Europe. pic.twitter.com/z0FpZ3Mcbb
—Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) July 17, 2022
One of the UK’s most notorious heatwaves occurred 46 years ago, a prolonged event that set many records. Although this heat wave did not match the 1976 heat wave in terms of longevity (the UK had 15 consecutive days of temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius), it is expected to be more intense. The maximum temperature during the 1976 heat wave was 35.9 degrees Celsius (96.6 degrees) compared to the predicted 40 degrees Celsius for that event.
That shouldn’t be surprising given global warming since the 1970s. The UK’s average temperature has warmed by more than 0.5 Celsius (0.9 degrees) since the mid-1970s, according to the Royal Society.
5. Records falling in real time
This chart from CoolWX.com ingests real-time observations from weather stations and compares them to historical data; it is from 2 p.m. Monday local time. Anything in red indicates that a city is breaking a daily record; magenta represents a station that ties or breaks a monthly temperature record, and black circles with an “x” inside indicate matching or exceeding an all-time maximum temperature.
A number of dark circles can be seen across southeastern parts of the UK, particularly around England, highlighting the unprecedented nature of the event.
On Monday, the temperature at Wales reached 98.8 degrees (37.1 Celsius), the highest on record. The top of 91.4 degrees (33 Celsius) in Dublin marked Ireland’s highest air temperature of the 20th and 21st centuries.
6. 100 from Mexico to Canada
It’s not often you see triple digits stretching from the south to the north of the United States, from the tip where southern Texas meets Mexico to the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. . Still, that was the forecast for Monday, and Tuesday could be even warmer for the southern Plains. About 40 million people are under heat alert in the lower 48 states.
Highs of up to 109 degrees are expected in the Dakotas on Monday, and Tuesday could feature a reading of 112 degrees in Wichita Falls, Texas. Triple-digit temperatures will continue to build there for at least the next week, with unusually warm temperatures for the foreseeable future.
The heat has already set significant records. On Sunday, Salt Lake City soared to 107 degrees, tying its all-time high. Dodge City, Kan., hit 109 degrees on both weekend days, matching its highest temperature seen in July. Even as far north as Glasgow, Montana, it hit 108 degrees on Sunday, among its 10 highest temperatures seen in a month.
7. A third heatwave in Central Asia
In addition to the central United States and Western Europe, Central Asia is also cooking. In other words, three exceptional heat waves affect the Northern Hemisphere.
The map below plots temperature anomalies that are 11 degrees Celsius (20 Fahrenheit) or greater on the Tibet Plateau in Central Asia.
In Tibet, the hot summer sun warms the highlands, allowing hot air at the top of the plateau to rise and create a “thermal low” that sucks in hot, humid air from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This is what triggers the annual monsoon there.