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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Season of climate extremes

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Recent weeks have dazzlingly defined a season of climate extremes: countries in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia have all been exposed to forest fires and devastating floods.

Russia, Canada, Brazil, Angola, and Congo top countries facing the highest risk of forest fire, while China ranks 11th in the world.

China set a new national daily temperature record in July, and was hit by record-breaking rainfall at the start of this month.

And then the start of August also saw a winter heatwave in parts of South America, while at home the Philippines cringed from destruction caused by Egay Falcon and Goring, flooding the rice-rich central Luzon Plains north of the capital and towns in Cagayan and Ilocos Norte.

Dangerous weather — intense heat and ruinous rainfall – has impacted large parts of the Northern hemisphere in what weather specialists described as this summer of extremes, causing major damage to the people’s health and the environment.

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Marine heatwaves are also affecting large areas of the ocean, with last July carding the hottest ever month on record.

This year, Canada is experiencing its worst wildfire season on record with tens of thousands of people being driven out of their homes and the federal government forced to deploy the military to several regions over the past months.

In Spain, firefighters are struggling to contain a wildfire that broke out in a mountainous national park on the island of Tenerife amid hot and dry weather, that has extended for 41 km and prompted authorities to evacuate more than 3,000 people in one day last week alone.

In Greece, blazes have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of land in the northeast alone, in what the European Union-backed Copernicus Climate Change Service said was the largest recorded wildfire on European soil in years.

There have also been hurricanes in the US mainland and a storm-induced wildfire in Maui’s Lahaina town, where many Filipinos live.

Earlier this month, a reservoir in Beijing’s Changping district logged 29.3 inches of precipitation, the most in the city in over 140 years.

At the same time, heavy downpours continued to soak South and North Korea as tropical storm Khanun swept over the peninsula after pounding Japan, putting Pyongyang on high alert for flood damage.

In some parts of South Korea, cumulative rainfall has topped 15.8 inches with maximum wind speeds last week of of 126 km per hour, flooding villages, schools and roads.

All this points to climate change – including increased heat, extended drought, and a thirsty atmosphere – as a key driver in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the western United States during the last two decades.

Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer due to climate change.

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