KUWAIT: This summer, the world is talking only about the severe heatwaves that swept many of its spots, not only in the interior but also extended to coastal spots that were characterized by moderate weather. In the Middle East, although the summer heat was punctuated by some breaks, this year it witnessed continuous rises to unprecedented levels of 50 degrees Celsius in many parts of the world. This caused huge losses in lives and property, the destruction of natural spaces, and the outbreak of wildfires, as this escalating pattern of extreme weather is attributed by scientists to the confluence of two climatic phenomena: the Heat Dome and El Nino.
The thermal dome arises from a high concentration in the upper layers of the atmosphere in the form of a cover that stores hot air close to the earth’s surface, which pushes for a significant rise in temperatures. This dome-like cover prevents the rise of hot air and the descent of cold air and, at the same time, allows the penetration of sunlight, which heats up that area of the atmosphere. In a video interview with the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA), professor of climate science at the University of Bern in Switzerland, Jonathan Buizen, explained that “thermal domes are not a new phenomenon and used to last only days, but what is new this summer is that they hanged for weeks and became more severe.”
In recent years, we have begun to monitor the frequency of thermal domes,” Buizen added. “They are more numerous than in the last decade and are becoming more deadly,” he said. A study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States and reviewed by the agency (KUNA) stated that the increase in the number of thermal domes can be linked to the strong change in temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, referring to severe climate variability known as the El Nino phenomenon. On July 4, the World Meteorological Organization officially announced the beginning of this phenomenon, which is likely to continue throughout the year.
The El Nino phenomenon is the strongest fluctuation in the climate system and occurs every two to seven years in the tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino sees the emergence of water. It warms on the surface off the coast of South America and spreads across the ocean, pushing huge amounts of heat into the atmosphere. About this phenomenon, professor Buizen told KUNA that “the size of the Pacific Ocean makes the impact of this phenomenon reach the whole world other than thermal domes that hang over specific geographical spots”. But he stressed that “it is climate change that exacerbates the impact of these phenomena, whether Heat Dome or El Nino, and prolongs them, similar to what happened in Italy, Greece, and the Middle East, where the change became more severe”.
As for the Middle East, Buizen expects that the next five years will witness more thermal domes, especially in the areas adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, leading to more severe heatwaves with stronger tropical cyclones in the south of the Arabian Peninsula if the world cannot curb the increase within the planned limit of global warming of 5.1 degrees Celsius. The World Meteorological Organization predicted the continuation of the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean throughout this year, with a warm end, “which means that 2023 will be the hottest in 120,000 years”. In August, the oceans recorded their highest temperature ever due to the absorption of heat caused by global warming.
While the European Climate Observatory (Copernicus) showed that the average temperature of the oceans reached about 21 degrees Celsius, which is much higher than the average temperature for this time of year, The North Atlantic region is experiencing heat waves for the first time, which reinforces fears of a new rise in temperature, but climate scientists never predicted that they would occur in that spot. In its latest bulletin, the World Meteorological Organization predicted that this year’s hurricane season will be “above normal” by 60 percent in the Atlantic Ocean due to the record high surface temperatures caused by the El Nino phenomenon.
These climate extremes raise deep fears for the future because of their catastrophic effects that will affect life on earth. As a result of increased evaporation of water and high air temperatures, crops are damaged, agriculture collapses, and workers become stressed. The thermal and economic cycles are severely affected by the disruption of the vital ecological balance of the planet. Forest fires, droughts, desertification, erosion of green spaces, receding water bodies, and melting ice are increasing in frequency at the poles, where the UN considers heat to be the most deadly climate change. In Europe, the heat of last summer claimed the lives of 60 thousand people, according to recent data, and the number is expected to increase annually to 90 thousand starting this year.
Over the past two decades, the number of deaths globally due to heat has increased by about 75 percent, according to a report released by the journal “Lancet Climate Countdown”, which is one of the few publications in Britain that documented the relationship between climate change and health. The head of the Lancet Report Team, Dr. Marina Romanello from the University of Cambridge, said in a video interview with KUNA that “from a health point of view, when people are regularly exposed to high heat day and night, the incidence of diseases such as heart, respiratory system, blood vessels, heat stroke, and poor mental health increases.
“We will face more waves. We have to adapt to the high heat, whether by staying indoors or not being exposed to the sun, while increasing green spaces in cities, which is very effective in reducing heat, as well as using low-emission cooling solutions. Over time, people adapt to the high heat,” Romanello added. “The body has physiological abilities that develop, and a brief exposure to heat trains it to cope with them. If the temperature continues to rise to record levels, there are doubts about the body’s ability to cope with it because the pace of global heat increase is faster than the physiological capabilities of the body to develop; there are limits to the heat that our bodies can cope with,” she added.- KUNA