From Hottest Place on Earth in Australia to LA and Ontario's Winter Heat Waves, 2016 Already on Track to Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded
It's only February but it looks like 2016 is already on track to be hottest year ever recorded. As some cities shake off an especially brutal winter, other cities are melting in record-high heat, with one city poised to shatter a five-decade-old weather record.
Even my car has had enough. #PerthHeatWave https://t.co/AkizpcSA1q— Clarissa Phillips (@Clarissa Phillips)1455005371.0
Australia, which lies in the southern hemisphere, is technically on its last month of summer but the blazing-hot temps in the city of Perth signal otherwise.
In fact, the Western Australian capital "may well be the hottest place on earth right now," News.com.au reported today with temperatures shooting past 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
The city has now seen three consecutive days of triple-degree weather and could obliterate a February 50-year-old weather record if it hits 40 degrees Celsius or above tomorrow, Abc.net.au reported.
"Perth's longest run of 40 degree days or more consecutively is four, and that was recorded back in 1933, if we get five we've broken that record and we've moved into uncharted territory basically," Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Neil Bennett told the publication.
"The trough is showing no signs of movement whatsoever, it's sitting there because the high pressure system that is going to help move it away is also stationary in bight."
Perth's sweltering heat has inspired some pretty creative responses on Twitter:
Pretty much the whole week #PerthHeatWave https://t.co/FnA1LbquYn— Mark Lucas (@Mark Lucas)1454945234.0
#PerthHeatWave https://t.co/M3xwArVU4A— aleesia (@aleesia)1454941087.0
#PerthHeatWave https://t.co/lo4EKjSkS1— lolbee (@lolbee)1454935044.0
Unfortunately, climate change signals even hotter days in the future. Climate researcher and Australian National University professor Will Steffen warned that Perth's scorching weather this week could get much worse if we don't curb our reliance on fossil fuels.
“Heatwaves will be even worse than they are now,” Steffen told the Herald Sun. “What happens after mid-century depends on how we get emissions under control but if we keep burning fossil fuels ... that means really, really excessive heat during extreme weather—into the 50s [120-plus degrees Fahrenheit]."
Los Angeles, California
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, temperatures are in the high 80s with many Angelenos taking to the beach to cool off. Sun-spoiled Angelenos also had some fun on social media:
Yeah....pretty much. Mid 80's and full on beach weather in #LA this weekend.... #mydayinla #beachlife #LAlife https://t.co/q0cs6Qc2uf— Morayma (@Morayma)1454978195.0
I'm wearing shorts and sandals outside at night in early February, which is weird even for Los Angeles weather standards.— (((Adam))) (@(((Adam))))1454992694.0
This photo from Zuma Beach captures LA's February summer. By @WallySkalij https://t.co/akylgjq16I— Shelby Grad (@Shelby Grad)1454968730.0
The sun-drenched California city reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, breaking 1996’s record of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, Accuweather reported. It's predicted that some locations in Southern California, including L.A., may even reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weather in Los Angeles doesn't just mean long days on the beach, though. The gusty winds accompanying the warm weather might increase the risk of wildfires in some places, Accuweather noted.
Record high temp in Downtown LA, 88 degrees, beating the 85 in 1996. #NBC4You #RecordHigh #LAWeather https://t.co/tSNlXR20ls— Anthony Yanez (@Anthony Yanez)1454965069.0
The current bone-dry weather in Los Angeles has some worried that El Niño, which many thought would help replenish the drought-stricken state's depleted reservoirs and aquifers, has passed Southern California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Southern California is still well below average rainfall, with downtown L.A. reporting 52 percent of normal since Oct. 1."
National Weather Service specialist Stuart Seto, however, told the Los Angeles Times he's optimistic. "Even though we haven't seen El Niño pan out that still doesn't mean we can't see good rains in the latter part of February and in March," he said.
Finally, Cananda—which usually experiences an inherently hazardous winter season—is seeing unusually mild, spring-like weather in some provinces.
"A plethora of new record maximum temperatures have been set February 3 across parts of southern Ontario," Environment Canada said in a statement. "Previous record highs have been shattered by several degrees on this day, which is more typical of mid April."
Stellar weather in Toronto for #WinterWalkDay. Even some #FebruaryShorts around https://t.co/pk0r4cmECR— Oliver Moore (@Oliver Moore)1454510726.0
According to Weather Network meteorologists:
Southwestern communities including Windsor, Chatham, Sarnia and Welland all broke previous records set back in 1991, with both Windsor and Sarnia climbing to 11°C [51.8°F] during the early morning hours. By noon, both communities as well as the city of London had already reached 13°C [55.4°F].
The record to beat at Toronto's Pearson International Airport was 9.3°C [48.74°F], also set on February 3, 1991. That record was officially broken by the early afternoon, when Toronto Pearson reached a balmy double-digit high of 16.0°C [60.8°F].
"Officially, the Toronto and Kitchener areas experienced new all time maximum temperatures in the mid teens for February," Environment Canada said. "What makes this record even more amazing is that one would expect the highest temperatures to be recorded near the end of February, when the sun is much higher in the sky, closer to the beginning of spring."
All-time February records broken in southern Ontario yesterday #YYZ #Toronto #KW #Kitchener https://t.co/6qIAiED2DS— Dayna Vettese (@Dayna Vettese)1454583303.0
It's undeniable that the world is getting warmer year after year. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that 2015 is likely to top the charts as the hottest year in modern observations, with 2011-15 the hottest five-year period on record ... that is until 2016.
In December, the UK Met Office forecasted that the global average temperature for next year is expected to be between 0.72 C and 0.96 C above the long-term (between 1961-1990) average of 14 C. There is just a 5 percent chance that 2016 will be below the 2015 global average temperature, the Met Office said.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>