Brace yourselves for more - that's the verdict of climate scientists for historically high temperatures in the spring and summer this year in vastly different climate zones.
The continental United States this year experienced the hottest May and the third hottest June in its history. Japan was hit by record temperatures that killed at least 86 people, something its meteorological agency openly called a "disaster." While climatic stations recorded historical maximum temperatures on the border of the Sahara and above the Arctic Circle.
Was it due to climate change? Scientists from the World Weather Attribution project concluded in a study published on July 27 that the probability of a recurrence of heat such as the one currently almost cooking in northern Europe is "twice as high today in a day that if human activities had not altered the climate ”.
Although there is no analysis yet on attribution for other record heat events this year, scientists say there is little doubt that the global increase in greenhouse gases is causing heat waves to be more frequent and of greater intensity. .
Elena Manaenkova, undersecretary of the World Meteorological Organization, said that this year is already "shaping up to be one of the hottest on record", and that the extreme heat observed so far is not surprising in light of climate change.
"This is not a future possibility," he said. "It is happening now."
What was it like to be in these disparate places on these extremely hot days? We asked who lives there.
Ouargla, Algeria: 51 degrees Celsius
At 3:00 p.m. on July 5, the first Thursday of the month, on the border of the vast Sahara, the Algerian oil city of Ouargla registered a high of 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit). Even for this hot country that was a record, according to the Algerian national meteorological service.
Abdelmalek Ibek Ag Sahli was working at an oil plant on the outskirts of Ouargla that day. He and the rest of his team had heard that it would be hot. They had to arrive at work at seven in the morning, as part of a normal twelve-hour work shift.
"We couldn't keep up," he recalls. “It was impossible to do the job. We were in hell. "
At eleven in the morning, he and his colleagues left work.
However, when they returned to the workers' dormitories, things were no better. There was no power so they couldn't use the air conditioning or fans. He dipped his blue cotton scarf in water, squeezed it out, and tied it around his head. I drink water. He bathed five times. "At the end of the day I had a headache," he said over the phone. "I was very tired".
The oldest inhabitants of Ouargla told him that they had never experienced such a hot day.
Hong Kong: Sixteen days in a row over 32 degrees Celsius
In this city of skyscrapers at the edge of the South China Sea, temperatures soared beyond 32 degrees Celsius for 16 consecutive days in the second half of May.
Since Hong Kong began recording its temperatures in 1884, no heat wave of such intensity had lasted for that long in May.
There were crowds at the pools. The air conditioners in all the offices were on. Although from morning to night some of the most essential workers in the city did their work in the open; they transported goods, guarded construction sites or collected garbage.
One scorching morning, a 55-year-old woman named Lin was trying to move a cart even though the metal handles were simmering. He was pushing him down a busy street as he looked over his shoulder for approaching cars. He had to deliver fresh vegetables to neighborhood restaurants in the morning and haul garbage at night. Some days his head ached; others vomited.
"It's very hot and I sweat a lot," said Lin, who only gave us her first name before rushing to make her rounds. "But I have no choice, I must earn a living."
Poon Siu-sing, a 58-year-old garbage collector, was throwing garbage bags into a pile. Sweat made his shirt stick to his back. "I don't feel anything anymore," he said. "I am a robot used to the heat of the sun and the rain."
Nawabshah, Pakistan: 50 degrees Celsius
Nawabshah is located in the heart of Pakistan's cotton region. However, no amount of cotton could have provided comfort on the last day of April, when temperatures soared above 50 degrees Celsius. It was a record number, even given the standards of this scorching place.
The streets were deserted that day, said a local journalist named Zulfiqar Kaskheli. The businesses did not bother to open. Taxi drivers did not go out onto the street to avoid the blazing sun.
Still, Riaz Soomro had to scour her neighborhood for a taxi that could take her 62-year-old father, who was ill, to the hospital. It was the time of Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, so the family kept fasting. The father became dehydrated and passed out.
The government hospital was full. In the hallways there were victims of heat stroke, like Soomro's father. He said many of them had been working outdoors as day laborers.
Throughout the area, hospitals and clinics were packed. There were not enough beds and not enough medical staff. The electricity was failing all day, adding to the chaos.
“We do our best to provide medical treatment,” said Raees Jamali, a paramedic from Daur, a town outside Nawabshah. "But, due to the intensity of the heat, there was an unexpected bustle and it was really difficult for us to deal with all the patients."
Every day that week, the highs in Nawabshah did not drop below 45 degrees Celsius, according to AccuWeather.
Oslo: 16 consecutive days over 30 degrees Celsius
"Caution! We remind them of the total prohibition of bonfires and barbecue near the forest and on the islands ”. So said the text message that Oslo residents received from city officials on a Friday afternoon in June.
This May was the hottest in a hundred years; June was also hot. By mid-July, a town south of Oslo recorded nineteen days when the temperature soared to more than 30 degrees Celsius, according to MET Norway.
Spring rains were minimal, which meant the grass turned yellow from dryness and farmers had trouble feeding their livestock. The forests became places of possible combustion. City officials banned one of Norway's most popular summer pastimes - going out into the woods with a disposable barbecue.
“As people are not used to this heat, they tend to leave the grill on. Before, nothing happened, "said Marianne Kjosnes, spokeswoman for the Oslo Fire Department. "Now, if a spark falls on the grass, it starts a forest fire."
Barbecues have been prohibited in public parks. The same on the islands of the nearby fjord. The Oslo Fire Department Facebook page has been spreading the news.
Per Evenson, a fire watchman stationed at the Linnekleppen tower, a rocky hill southeast of Oslo, counted eleven different wildfires in a single day in early July. Here and there, white smoke rose in the distance. As of July 19, the civil protection department had a record of 1,551 wildfires, more than the number of fires in all of 2016 and 2017. The department noted that there were twenty-two helicopters simultaneously fighting the fires.
Wildfires also broke out in Sweden. In addition, a Swedish town located a little above the Arctic Circle reached a record high of more than 32.2 degrees Celsius.
"If this is the new normal, it's really alarming," Thina Margrethe Saltvedt, an Oslo-based energy industry analyst, wrote in an email.
Los Angeles: 42 degrees Celsius
At least Marina Zurkow had air conditioning.
Zurkow, an artist, has long focused her work on combating climate change. Still, he was surprised when one day of extreme weather seriously affected one of his projects.
The name of that project, designed to raise awareness in people about the impact of global warming on the way we eat, is "Making the Best of It" (making the most of it). It was part joke and part serious.
"It does try to make the best of a bad situation," he said, "but it's also a commitment to making things as delicious as possible."
The most recent part of that project was hosting a dinner honoring a new era of hot, dry weather in California. Less Mediterranean food and more food made in the style of the Mojave Desert.
Zurkow's partners, two personal chefs named Hank and Bean, put together a highly elaborate meal designed to get their guests to ruminate on the impact of climate change. The menu included fried sage pancakes, stuffed rabbit, flatbread made from grasshoppers and worms, as well as jellyfish. Lots of jellyfish.
Why jellyfish? Because they are considered invasive and therefore abundant, Zurkow reasoned. In addition, they do not have fat and yes a lot of protein. "The food dream," he added, also a bit joking.
They had planned to serve dinner outside on the patio of an experimental kitchen in downtown Los Angeles.
But nature had other plans.
That day, the first Friday in July, a Mojave wind blew westward and stopped, compressed and extremely hot, over Los Angeles. The center reached a maximum of 42.2 degrees Celsius. It was too hot to eat outside.
"Even if you talk about climate change, you can't torture guests," Zurkow said. "We had to serve dinner in the kitchen."
Somini Sengupta reported from New York and Los Angeles; Tiffany May, from Hong Kong, and Zia ur-Rehman, from Karachi, Pakistan.
Original article (in English)