The summer of 2022 will be one for the record books
Heat waves, droughts, forest fires and floods. The summer of 2022 is sure to be remembered for countless extreme weather events that caused destruction, claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions around the world. But what is behind all these devastating events? We recap all the records broken over the summer and look at the role climate change has played in it all.
There is no doubt that the summer of 2022 will be that of records, with one climatic disaster after another.
Sweltering weather, exceptionally intense wildfires and cataclysmic floods: we have spent the past few months watching in disbelief as calamity after calamity unfold in every corner of the world, causing unimaginable damage, killing thousands and displacing millions.
What brought us here, how did these disasters unfold, and what role does climate change play in all of this?
Summer 2022: a recap
So many extreme record breaking events have broken records in recent months that it is difficult to list them all.
The summer of 2022 has started earlier than expected, because deadly heatwave cooks South Asia for weeks between late March and May. India experienced its hottest March since records began more than a century ago, with people in several parts of the country suffering consecutive days of over 40C. In April, temperatures average peaks reached their highest level in 122 years. In May, land surface temperatures in the northwestern regions exceeded 60°C. The record heat wave caused massive fires, destroyed wheat crops and significantly increased the pressure on domestic energy demand, forcing India to step up his smut game again after years of hard work to bring the country closer to its 2070 net zero goal.
Meanwhile, neighboring Pakistan – one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change – was also heavily affected by the sweltering heat wave. Jacobabad, a city in the southeastern region of Sindh, recorded the hottest April temperatures in history.
Fast forward a few weeks and while dealing with the dramatic repercussions of the sweltering heatwave, South Asia has become the epicenter of a record monsoon season. In late June, India’s northeast states of Assam and Meghalaya and low-lying areas of Bangladesh experienced erratic rains that triggered among the worst floods in over a century, killing dozens and displacing millions. At the end of the summer, it was Pakistan’s turn to face the devastating force of this monsoon season. At the end of August, the nation became the epicenter of the “climate disaster of the decadeas rain-triggered floods of biblical proportions swept away entire towns and claimed thousands of lives.
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But Asia was not the only continent affected by the heat waves. During the summer of 2022, almost the entire world experienced extreme weather conditions. France experienced its hottest May on record and the British government declared the first ever national emergency red heat alert, as unusually high temperatures in July baked London and other parts of the country for days. Meanwhile, hot, dry conditions across Europe have fueled an early wildfire season.”significantly above average“, with Spain and Portugal experience particularly acute forest fires.
California, an extremely fire prone conditionwill forever remember devastating forest fire which erupted in July in Yosemite National Park, home to nearly 500 of the oldest and tallest iconic redwoods in the world. Once considered impervious to flames, the iconic redwoods have become much more vulnerable to climate change-induced fires, which have intensified and become more destructive in recent years.
As if all that weren’t enough, long heat waves and destructive wildfires have resulted in some of the worst drought conditions in world history. In August, nearly half of Europe was declared under alert conditions for what scientists called the continent worst drought in at least 500 yearswith rivers of Po in Italy to Rhine in Germany drying due to high temperatures and constant lack of rainfall, with repercussions on energy production and agriculture. In Asia, China’s longest heat wave since full records began in 1961 drained the Yangtze River, sparkling energy rationing in the Sichuan region. Meanwhile, California entered its third year of drought.
The repercussions of this summer’s heat waves were felt as far away as the Arctic. With parts of the region experiencing unprecedented warming this summer and above-average temperatures in September, melting ice in the Arctic reached a new record. We are witnessing the largest melting event in terms of mass to occur in September in nearly four decades.
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What’s behind all this?
The trend towards more extreme weather events is caused by a warming of the Earth due to human activities. Are you surprised? Probably not.
In a nutshell, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane lead to warmer air; which in turn generates more water vapor in the atmosphere. In fact, for every degree of warming we get, scientists have found that the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture. So, as storms intensify, preparing to release water vapor as rain, they have more to draw from, resulting in heavier and more powerful rainfall.
But it’s not just the air that’s getting warmer. As the oceans warm with global warming, more water will inevitably evaporate, further adding to this vicious cycle. In effect, ocean warming is more than a third of the global average the sea level rises by thermal expansion, a phenomenon which, in turn, increases threats to coastal infrastructure and habitats due to saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion and flooding.
While climate change is not the direct cause of rainfall or hot temperatures, it is undoubtedly making them more frequent and more powerful. A World Weather Attribution study published in October found that the 2022 droughts in the northern hemisphere were made “20 times more likelyby climate change. Global warming is also warming northern regions by nearly four times faster than the rest of the planet. This, scientists warn, will trigger even more catastrophic weather events in the future, from heat waves and droughts to storms and floods.
Scientists agree that climate change is a key factor behind the heavy and early rains experienced by nations around the world. Due to global warming, temperatures in Asia have risen by at least 0.5°C since the 1970s and monsoon patterns have changed in recent decades, becoming not only stronger but also harder to predict.
In addition to human-induced global warming, the increasingly hot and dry climate is associated with a meteorological phenomenon known as the girlthe trade winds that blow over the Pacific Ocean and whose effects vary depending on where you are in the world.
For one thing, La Niña generally brings warmer, drier temperatures to the western and southern United States. These result in little precipitation, which reduces snowmelt and runoff during the spring thaw, which creates optimal drought conditions. On the other hand, the phenomenon is associated with more precipitation and cloudiness in Australia. In October 2022, the country was hit by severe flooding caused by a third consecutive year La Niña weather eventwhich brought down the amount of rain usually expected throughout the month in just 24 hours.
EO Position: The latest IPCC report clearly shows that the world is rapidly losing sight of its ability to stay below the 1.5°C global temperature increase limit. We must phase out fossil fuels immediately and increase renewable energy production to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. With COP27 arriving next month, governments must take action to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to curb global warming.
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