Quantcast

Is Climate Change to Blame for February's Record-Breaking Heat?

Popular

By Jeremy Deaton

Meteorologists saw dozens of heat records broken this week, as an extended stretch of uncommonly warm weather continues across much of the U.S.

Also this week, Scott Pruitt took the helm at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt, who has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, has described climate science as a "religious belief" and said he expects to scrap the Clean Power Plan, an EPA initiative to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

Scientists have found that carbon pollution is warming the planet, producing more severe weather, including more extreme heat. February's spate of record-high temperatures offers the most recent example of how this process plays out.

In Pruitt's home state of Oklahoma, temperatures hit a record 99ºF earlier this month, more than 40 degrees above the average February high. Texas, Kansas and Colorado also recorded all-time highs. Over the long weekend, Chicago endured four consecutive days of record heat, which coincided with record-setting temperatures in Madison, Milwaukee and other Midwestern cities.

This first three weeks of February have been a meteorological anomaly. But the weather seen this month is quickly becoming the new normal in the U.S. Carbon pollution is trapping heat, driving up temperatures around the country. That means fewer cold days and more warm days.

Global warming is shifting the entire distribution of temperatures, making extreme cold less likely and extreme heat more likely.Environmental Protection Agency

Record hot days—those at the far end of the temperature distribution—bear the strongest human fingerprint. This, in other words, is what climate change looks like.

As the planet warms, we will endure more extreme heat and less extreme cold. February has delivered record temperatures to countries as far afield as Iceland and Australia. So far this month, the U.S. has seen 2,805 record highs and just 27 record lows.

This change in weather patterns does not come without a cost.

For those living in frigid Midwestern states, a balmy day in February is a welcome respite from the typical winter chill. But the early thaw—what scientists call "season creep"—can have disastrous consequences for ecosystems.

Flowers are already beginning to emerge in Chicago, which has gone a record 67 days without an inch of snow. Early blossoms may wilt before they can be pollinated. Farmers in the region may see their crops bud after an early thaw only to perish in a late-season frost.

Because climate change poses an immediate threat to public health, agriculture and wildlife, states and cities aren't waiting for Pruitt's EPA to take action. Massachusetts legislators are now considering a bill that would require the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2035. California has pledged to get to 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2045.

"Mr. Pruitt is a clear and present danger to our economic prosperity and the health of our children," California Senate leader Kevin de Léon (D) said in a statement. "California will not follow Trump's destructive path. We've proven that you can protect the environment and grow jobs."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Watchfield Solar Park in England. RTPeat / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Simon Evans

During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

Read More Show Less
A demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian flag during protests against the end of subsidies to gasoline and diesel on Oct. 9 in Quito, Ecuador. Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo / Getty Images

The night before Indigenous Peoples' Day, an Indigenous-led movement in Ecuador won a major victory.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters block the road outside Mansion House in London during an XR climate change protest. Gareth Fuller / PA Images via Getty Images

One week into Extinction Rebellion's planned two weeks of International Rebellion to demand action on the climate crisis, the London police have banned the group from the city.

Read More Show Less
Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

Read More Show Less
Pexels
  • Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
  • More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
  • Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.

A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Demonstrators with The Animal Welfare Institute hold a rally to save the vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, outside the Mexican Embassy in DC on July 5, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
Air conditioners, like these in a residential and restaurant area of Singapore city, could put a massive strain on electricity grids during more intense heatwaves. Taro Hama @ e-kamakura / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

Read More Show Less