Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

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

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.

People Have the Power - VOTE 2020

Climate-action nonprofit Pathway to Paris first launched in 2014 with an "intimate evening" of music and conversation after the People's Climate March in New York City.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. sarote pruksachat / Moment / Getty Images

A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2020 presidential election poses a critical test of climate conservatives' willingness to put their environmental concerns before party politics. filo / Getty Images

By Ilana Cohen

Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.

But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.

Read More Show Less
Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak on Aug. 17, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read More Show Less
Exterior of Cold Tube demonstration pavilion. Lea Ruefenacht

By Gloria Oladipo

In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch