More than 400 weather stations around the world broke their all-time high temperature records in 2021, according to a climatologist who has been compiling weather records for more than 30 years.
Maximiliano Herrera monitors extreme weather conditions around the world and publishes an annual list of records broken the previous year. He and many other climatologists and meteorologists who follow these matters closely expect 2021 to be probably not the hottest year in history (Noaa and Nasa will release their results in the coming days).
But it’s likely to be in the top five or six, continuing the long-term uptrend. The past six years have been the hottest six on record.
And, as is now the norm, a sheaf of new heat records have been broken, according to Herrera. Ten countries – Oman, United Arab Emirates, Canada, United States, Morocco, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy, Tunisia and Dominica – broke or equaled their highest national record, 107 countries broke their monthly high temperature record and five broke their monthly low temperature record.
A few continental and planetary records have also fallen: Africa has experienced its hottest months of June and September in its history. The month of August brought 48.8 ° C (119.8 ° F) to Syracuse, Italy, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. July had already brought 54.4 ° C (130 ° F) to Furnace Creek in Death Valley in the United States – the highest temperature reliably recorded on Earth. (A temperature recorded at 129.9 F in 2020 has also been rounded to 130 F.)
But there were a few specific events that stood out especially for the experts. For meteorologist Patricia Nying’uro, co-founder of Climate Without Borders and based in the Kenya Meteorological Department, Kenya’s two consecutive failed rainy seasons were unusual and forced the government to organize food aid for the first time in many years. many years. .
“You can certainly see the effect of climate change on our weather in Kenya and around the world. We’re only pulling the data together for 2021, but believe we will have seen an annual temperature that is 2.1 ° C higher than normal for some parts of the country. The changes are very noticeable, from one extreme to the other in a very short period of time.
This is one of the reasons Nying’uro helped found CWB, a group of meteorologists and weather presenters from around the world who share information on extreme weather events. They also help weather presenters make connections to climate change and communicate them to the public.
Meteorologist Scott Duncan, which collects data on global weather, highlighted European summer heat waves, which have broken records in a number of countries – and have been accompanied by forest fires around the Mediterranean. They had been preceded by a hot month of March, by a violent cold snap at the beginning of April which “was catastrophic for many farms in France”, then floods in July. “These events really marked me.”
He also highlighted the heat in Alaska in December, where a number of records were largely broken. “It was extraordinary.”
China had its hottest year in history, according to the China Meteorological Administration. But it was the rains that hit central Henan Province that really shocked: The region was hit with more rain in three days than it normally receives in an entire year. Hundreds of people have died, crops and homes have been destroyed, and the cleanup continues. Jia Xiaolong, deputy director of the National Climate Center, said the situation last year was abnormal.
“Warming was the main theme of China’s climate in 2021. In the context of global warming, recurring extreme weather and climate events have become the norm, which is also a major challenge for disaster prevention and mitigation. .
Other key unusual weather events last year were the heat wave in Siberia in the summer and the deep freeze in Texas in February. Nearly 200 people died, millions of homes were without electricity, and the fallout led to massive political wrangling.
Guy Walton, an activist meteorologist who has campaigned on climate change since the late 1980s, said that “the cold epidemic of February 2021 which resulted in the failure of the power grid in Texas and dozens of deaths” was “ironically attributed to climate change by many”. He also noted “the extraordinary mild / warm fall leading up to the hottest December on record for the United States. The National Environmental Information Centers should formalize this in the coming days.
But the key 2021 event for the weather and climate community was the extreme heat wave that hit the west coast of the United States in June / July, led to a heat dome and broke records until 5 ° C in some places. At the time, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh (died October 2021) of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute called it “way beyond the upper limit” and “surprising and shaking”.
“Of course, 2021 has been full of extreme events,” Herrera said. “But if I have to name one, I will name what has struck all the climatologists and meteorologists around the world. Herrera dubbed the event “the mother of all heat waves.”
“I admit, I never would have believed it was even physically impossible. The magnitude of this event exceeded anything I have seen after a lifetime of searching for extreme events in all of climate history. of the modern world over the past two centuries.
Meanwhile, 2022 has started with a number of records already broken in the UK and the we in the first days of the year.