Jun 27, 2019

Record-breaking heat wave cooks Europe

21-300 Radzyn Podlaski
Poland
by
Mark Kaufman
,
Mashable
Credit: windy.com
Credit: windy.com

Radzyń, Poland hit nearly 101 degrees Fahrenheit, a region outside of Berlin reached 101.5 degrees, and the average max June temperature in France hit its highest point ever, at nearly 95 degrees. And there's more heat to come. 

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"Heat records do of course happen much more frequently due to global heating," said Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. "That is entirely as expected, and it will continue as long as we heat the planet by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere."

"Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change and this means that Europe can expect more record-breaking heatwaves in future," agreed Len Shaffrey, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, in the UK. 

Shaffrey noted that boosted global temperatures have at least doubled the probability of heat extremes in Europe, similar to last summer's scorching events. 

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Though, it's not just boosted overall temperatures that have contributed to Europe's heat waves. Winds in the high atmosphere (the jet stream) that move in giant waves around the planet, called Rossby Waves, have changed, explained Rahmstorf. Specifically, these major atmospheric flows have been slowing down and growing weirder and more curvy. This leaves persistent weather patterns — like heat — stalled over big regions, like Europe. 

Atmospheric scientists suspect that amplified warming in the Arctic — which is on grand display this year — is largely responsible for slowing down these powerful atmospheric winds. With less of a temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes, wind patterns may change and grow weaker, particularly in the summer, noted Rahmstorf. 

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"I do not feel any satisfaction because of the predictions of climate science coming true," said Rahmstorf. "Rather, I feel increasingly worried for my two children's future."