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June 2015 Smashes Heat and Rainfall Records in U.S.

Climate

June has been a crazy weather month. Then again, so were the first five months of the year. Globally, it's shaping up to be the hottest year on record by far. It's not just heat either. Some parts of the U.S. have recently seen record rainfall. May was the wettest month ever recorded in the U.S., and many places had record rainfall for the month of June.

June saw record heat and dry conditions in the West and record rainfall in the central and eastern U.S. Photo credit: The Weather Channel

Mashable's Andrew Freedman reports there's a "heat dome parked over the West," which is shattering temperature records and sparking wildfires. "During the past seven days alone, 465 warm temperature records have been set or tied across the country, mainly in the West, with 49 monthly warm temperature records set or tied, according to the National [Centers] for Environmental Information," says Freedman. This heat wave is "noteworthy for its severity, extent and duration."

While current weather should not be conflated with long term climate trends, this weather does match the long term trends. Recent reports confirm that global warming increases the likelihood and frequency of extreme weather events, including heat waves, drought, flooding and fires. And the U.S. and the rest of the world have experienced all of those in recent months.

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Alaska, which along with the rest of the Arctic has warmed faster than any other region on the planet, had a record warm winter with low snowfall followed by a record warm spring. Due to these extremely hot and dry conditions, there were more than 300 fires burning across the state—far above average for the state. Wildfires have broken out in Western Canada, Washington, California and elsewhere in the West in what experts predict could be the worst fire season yet because of record warm temperatures, drought conditions and record low snowfall this past winter.

Meanwhile, in the central and eastern U.S., many places experienced a record wet June and/or the record wettest year to date, according to The Weather Channel.

And it's not just the U.S. experiencing all of this extreme weather. There are several places around the world experiencing epic drought, including Spain, Australia and Northern India. Many places have also recently experienced heat waves, some of which have been incredibly deadly, including India and Pakistan. Europe is also in the grip of a major heat wave with dozens of record temperatures broken this week across the continent. The UN issued a warning today about the dangers of heat waves, which were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Europe in 2003 and again in 2010.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

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"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.