Natural disasters spurred by human-induced climate change are ravaging the globe. Wildfires raged in the US, Russia, and Spain. Massive Floods took the lives of scores and left millions homeless in India and Bangladesh. In North Korea, a 100 year drought is worsening a decades-long hunger crisis. And, again in the US, a thunderstorm packing more than five times the energy of a normal summer rumbler formed over Chicago before ripping a 300 mile wide swath of destruction to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving 22 dead and millions without power amidst one of the worst heatwaves on record.
The above image, shot from space, shows scores of fires raging over the Siberian tundra where heat combined with methane seeps and lightning strikes to form a combustible brew. Massive smoke plumes bellowed from these fires intermingling in an Earth-spanning haze with fires all over the Northern Hemisphere. Unprecedented summer heat, five, ten, fifteen degrees hotter than normal fueled the blazes speckling the Earth’s surface like scattered embers. In the US, an enormous conflagration claimed over 350 homes and multiple lives. In Spain, the city of Valencia was blanketed by ash as a 45,000 hectare blaze roared through the countryside. Many of the fires were massive, covering scores of square kilometers. The High Park fire in Colorado, seen in the image below, sprawled to a massive inferno covering 235 square kilometers.
In Spain, Colorado, and Russia, the fires were the worst in years to decades. But that they were so numerous, all burning away at the same time, was unprecedented.
If the terrible fires raging over the globe weren’t enough, massive floods again struck southeast Asia, claiming lives and making millions of people climate change refugees. A massive flood spanning eastern India and Bangladesh left 2.3 million people homeless and killed 180. Rivers overflowed and claimed lives, often engulfing entire villages. More than 700 refugee camps were erected to shelter with the displaced. But the threat of illness abounded in the disaster’s wake.
All across the United States, much of the country suffered from dry or drought conditions. NOAA’s sensors showed more than 56% of the US toiling under various stages of drought, and more than 70% of the nation experiencing abnormally dry conditions. The signal sent in most places was the same: the country was drying out. In many places conditions were expected to persist or worsen over the coming weeks and months. This continent-spanning drought threatened the largest corn crop in US history. This crop was planted, in part, to help improve US energy security, providing immense volumes of corn for use in a more than 1 million barrel per day ethanol industry, a key bastion against oil imports. Should this crop be hampered by drought it could harm both US energy security and world-wide food security.
Perhaps most tragically, North Korea which has suffered from sporadic hunger and famine for more than a decade, is now experiencing the worst drought conditions in 100 years. The drought, caused by temperatures more than 8 degrees higher than summer averages, became so severe that North Korean soldiers were dispatched to aid in the watering of crops. According to the UN, this ongoing drought threatens more than 3.5 million people with starvation.
Returning to the US, an unprecedented and powerful storm that many compared to an inland hurricane spawned just west of Chicago on Friday. Fueled by atmospheric instability and temperatures that, in some places, measured over 115 degrees Fahrenheit, this storm blossomed into a monstrous system spanning as much as 300 miles along its intense gust front. The storm ejected powerful volleys of lightning, torrential downpours, and winds that in some cases exceeded 80 miles per hour. Ripping through Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and New Jersey, this unprecedented storm knocked out power to millions of customers, uprooted and ripped the tops off trees, and killed more than 22 people. The intensity of this storm was equally excessive, measuring more than five times the energy of a normal thunderstorm on the storm intensity index.
Looking at the above image, it is easy to see why so many meteorologists compared this storm to an inland hurricane.
Severe Impacts of Global Warming Happening Now
Given all this terrible warmth, drought, fire, and weather, it is increasingly clear that the conditions climate scientists have warned us about are happening now. In fact, many scientists are saying just that. In an interview on PBS, Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research stated:
“I don’t think there has been anything quite like this before. The odds are changing for these to occur with the global warming from the human influences on climate. You look out the window and you see climate change in action.”