I was born in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, the last year the planet was colder than normal. Earth has warmed markedly over the past 42 years.
But if you’re doubtful that we’re witnessing a planetary heat wave, these two maps (above), should make you a convert. They show the temperature difference from normal (or deviation from the 1901 to 2000 average) in June 2018 vs. June 1976. Warmer-than-normal areas are shaded red, and cooler-than-normal areas are hued blue.
Look at how much more red there is in 2018 vs. 1976. The headlines you see touting a global heat wave are not hyperbole. While there are cool pockets, most of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is currently summer, is hotter to much hotter than normal (compared with the 20th century, the baseline). That wasn’t the case the year I was born.
The above maps use data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but it doesn’t matter what data set you use to compare these summers. Red areas have exploded. Blue zones are fading away.
Here’s the comparison of June 1976 vs. June 2018 using NASA’s analysis of temperature data.
The big difference between the heatwaves of 1976 and 2018.— Dr Simon Lee (@SimonLeeWx) July 22, 2018
June 1976: the UK was one of the warmest places relative to normal across the globe, with most areas cooler than average.
June 2018: the UK was just another warm blob in a mostly warmer than normal world.#GlobalHeatwave. pic.twitter.com/eIsj7glEiE
Berkeley Earth, another institution that analyzes temperature data over land, presents these maps:
Of course, a comparison of June 1976 and June 2018 shows just a snapshot of the change in temperature in recent decades. But if you compare January 2017 and January 1975 or October 2016 and October 1973, you’ll see similar results. Or, you can just watch the months and years in motion:
Our climate is now fundamentally different.
So it’s no wonder that all of the following locations have established record highs in the past month:
- In North America: Multiple locations in Southern California; Denver; Montreal; Mount Washington, N.H.; and Burlington, Vt.
- In Europe: Multiple locations in Norway, Finland and Sweden; Glasgow, Scotland; Shannon, Ireland; Belfast and Castlederg, Northern Ireland.
- In Eurasia: Multiple locations in central and eastern Russia; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Yerevan, Armenia.
- In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which posted the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28: 109 degrees (42.8 degrees Celsius).
- In Africa: Ouargla, Algeria, which may have posted the highest temperature in the entire African continent on July 5: 124.3 degrees (51.3 degrees Celsius).
- In Asia: Japan set a national temperature record, and Taiwan may have posted its highest temperature on record.
The world is warming, unambiguously.
Despite all of this evidence, there are those who doubt today’s temperatures are anything out of the ordinary. To bolster their case, they often cherry-pick and nitpick individual weather records and attempt to find fault with them. I have no problem with skeptics scrutinizing the data and identifying errors if they exist. That is how science is done.
But the problem is that so many all-time heat records are being set in so many locations that they cannot possibly all be errant. The doubters who are attempting to play whack-a-mole with these temperature records are losing as the list piles higher and higher.
As an example, in June the British Met Office initially reported that Scotland set an all-time temperature record of 91.8 degrees (33.2 Celsius) in the town of Motherwell. But upon further examination, it said the measurement was invalid due to an idling ice cream truck near the temperature sensor. “So claims of ‘extreme heat due to global warming’ have been shot down by the Good Humor Man,” wrote Anthony Watts, who runs the blog Watts Up With That, popular among those who are unconvinced about human-caused climate warming.
Watts failed to mention all-time high temperatures were set in several other locations in Britain and Ireland.
“The spell of weather at the end of June and into July is without doubt a notable heat wave for the UK, and particularly for Scotland and Wales, with some very high temperatures on 28th June,” concluded the Met Office. “The rejection of the Motherwell observation for that day does not detract from that.”
Another tactic used to cast doubt on this onslaught of unusual hot-weather extremes is to point out record hot weather from the past but without the necessary context.
For example, James Delingpole, who writes about climate change for Breitbart, recently wrote a column dismissive of the hot weather. He said “weather records are always being broken around the world” while noting many high-temperature records in the United States occurred in the 1930s “before man-made global warming was a thing.” But Delingpole neglects to report is that temperatures in the 1930s were “intensified by disastrous land use practices” during the Dust Bowl, according to a 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Those who are trying to make up their mind about whether the current heat around the planet is unusual have a choice: They can get lost in the weeds, which are thorny and lead nowhere, or they can look at the big picture, which is crystal clear and concerning.