Heat wave across the world in March creates concern

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Anupama Nair


This year, unfortunately like 2020 and 2021 also started on a series of events that broke our hearts – Corona third wave, death of Lata ji and Shane Warne, the misery of people in Ukraine etc., however, now we are witnessing unprecedented heatwaves across the world including Europe and North America, and also along the arctic circle. Canada, US and Europe last year witnessed a record temperature of nearly 49°C, in June and July. But this year in March itself, when northern hemisphere is supposed to have spring.

What is Global Warming? Global warming is an aspect of climate change, referring to the long-term rise of  the Earth’s temperatures, mainly from human activities such as burning fossil fuels, that pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The main gases that cause the greenhouse effect include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor (which all occur naturally), and fluorinated gases (which are synthetic). Global warming is expected to have far-reaching, everlasting and distressing consequences for planet Earth.

Josef Werne, a professor of Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Pittsburgh, stated “We can observe this happening in real time in many places. Ice is melting in both polar ice caps and mountain glaciers. Lakes around the world, including Lake Superior, are warming rapidly — in some cases faster than the surrounding environment. Animals are changing migration patterns and plants are changing the dates of activity”. Scientists project that extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, blizzards and rainstorms will continue to occur more often and with larger intensity due to Global Warming.

We can see from the start of the millennium, each year from 2014 has been recorded as the hottest year in History. The year 2021, broke all previous records, and 2022 seems to be going the same way if it is this hot in March. Most of the countries in Northern Hemisphere, recorded record temperatures in June last year. A heat dome was created in United States and Canada in June, causing temperatures as high as 47°C. I am not talking about Delhi or Lahore, but Canada, a place where Summers are always pleasant.

What is heat dome? A heat dome is formed when the atmosphere acts as a lid or cap and traps hot ocean air beneath it. It is an area of high pressure stuck over a region. According, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat dome formation is more likely during the La Niña years. Due to the temperature discrepancy, winds blow dense, tropical western air eastward. That warm air eventually becomes stuck in the jet stream, a circulation of air that travels counterclockwise around the globe, and ends up on the Western Coast of the United States. Heat dome works like a lid on a pot, trapping hot air mass underneath. And this feature is often blamed to be responsible for long-lasting and deadly heat waves around the world. Often a very significant heatwave develops underneath with temperatures well above normal, challenging some heat records.

The heat waves bring in a lot of sunlight and sinking air that heats up as it compresses. Western Canada usually experiences such heat waves in July or August beginning, however this year it had occurred as early as March.

As you are aware, countries closer to the equator (zero degrees latitude) have warmer temperatures year-round compared to countries farther north or south of the equator. Countries that are further north in the Northern Hemisphere or south in the Southern Hemisphere experience four seasons and a wide range of temperatures, including significantly colder temperatures in the winter. Because of the Earth's tilt on its axis, the polar regions receive the sun's rays at a slanted angle, however, the equator receives the rays more directly over a smaller area, making the rays more concentrated and hotter.

This year, Mumbai witnessed unusually hot week after witnessing record-breaking cold winter. Rest of the Indian subcontinent is witnessing a very hot sweltering days and a severe heat wave was declared in India and Pakistan. Normally northern parts of India and Pakistan experience pleasant weather, but this year the temperatures are as close as 38°C. I shudder to imagine the heat in summer till monsoons.

However, the main cause of concern is the temperatures in Europe, North America and the polar regions. Strong pressure systems in the sub-polar regions are creating a ‘wind tunnel’ from the North Atlantic into the Polar Region. At present, a strong movement of air is underway, creating unusual weather conditions both in and out of the Polar regions and, we can see a large area of warmer temperatures than normal, over the western Polar regions. It is seen as  the warmer air moves into the polar regions, it usually means that colder air moves out. It has been reported that temperature witnessed is 30°C more than normal, which is a matter of grave concern.

The atmosphere is constantly in motion and is always trying to achieve a state of perfect balance or equilibrium. Unfortunately, it is being ‘imbalanced’ by the large temperature differences around the world, from the equatorial to the polar regions. These temperature differences cause large pressure variations in the atmosphere, resulting in strong pressure systems across the world. The atmosphere always tries to balance the pressure differences, which we can feel like the wind. This is surely not a heatwave, like we have during the Summer, but considering the unusually high temperatures for this region at this time of the year, it is a heatwave of warmer than normal temperatures.

If we are not careful, life in this precious planet will be getting unbearable day by day.

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