Ah, the weather. It’s a subject that will come up in conversation until the end of time. Usually, people comment on how nice of a day it is outside or just gripe about the cold. Recently though, weather chatter has leaned more toward the extreme, especially this past weekend.
In India, the BBC reports that a horrible countrywide heatwave has killed nearly 500 people. Throughout the past week, more than 200 people have died in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh. On Sunday alone, 62 people died across the country. With most of the heatwave’s victims being over the age of 50, the causes of death are said to be sunstroke or dehydration.
Although Indian officials are telling everyone to stay inside and drink plenty of fluids, it seems pretty hard to fight against the ridiculously high temperatures. Northern cities like Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh recorded 118 degree temps, while the thermometer rose to 111 degrees in the bustling capital city of Delhi.
In the United States, things aren’t much different. California has been experiencing a crippling drought for the fourth year in a row. This year’s dry spell is so bad, the California state water board had to approve $19 million for interim emergency drinking water. Meanwhile, the state’s water managers are considering implementing a recycling system, known as direct potable reuse, which takes treated sewage and turns it into drinking water. Refreshing!
Of course, when it does rain, it pours. On Sunday, drought-stricken areas of Texas was hit hard by rainfall. The rain caused flooding that reportedly killed three people and swept away hundreds of homes, forcing close to 1,000 people to stay in emergency shelters. If farmers were praying for rain, they probably weren’t expecting this.
In a fairly obvious statement, meteorologists say the heatwave in India is due to a lack of rain. The same goes for California’s drought problems. But why?
In Texas, most flood-worthy downpours are caused by heat-induced convective storms. During May, cold, dry air from the northwest collides with warm, moist air masses from the Gulf of Mexico causing rainfall that can produce heavy rains and flooding, NASA wrote last year. So, if there’s more heat in the air this year already causing a drought, can Texans also expect more flooding?
According to a March article in Science Magazine, Global warming is increasing temperatures twice as fast in the Arctic. This amplification may be altering circulation patterns that affect weather around the globe. Beyond causing deep freezes in the winter, this Arctic amplification could be contributing to death-inducing summer heat, as well.
Essentially, without less reflective Arctic ice, the sea is absorbing more of the sun’s energy. When temperatures begin to cool, the ocean releases that absorbed energy back into the atmosphere, which causes more warming.
Others believe that this heat and all of its side-effects is normal. Those who challenge climate change say that the world isn’t warming at all. 2014, for instance, was not the warmest year on record, because melting sea ice cannot cause such temperature fluxes.
“The reason [meteorologists] say it’s the warmest year is because they are using the ground weather station data, many of which are near pavement. Even still, they had to cherry pick that data to get at the warmest year ever and it was only the warmest by only two-100ths of a degree.”
Climate change hoax or not, the heat feels real to those in India and California right now. And the devastating rain in Texas this past weekend cannot be ignored. While there may not be an immediate solution or definitive answer to this extreme weather, we should at least familiarize ourselves with the changing trends and get prepared for more of it.