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Sunday, July 28, 2019

At least 20 people have died from Europe’s extreme heat. The Arctic caught on fire. This is what climate change looks like.

  • Europe is experiencing yet another heat wave: Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have seen record-high temperatures. At least 10 people have died.
  • In June, parts of France, Spain, and Germany also experienced record-breaking hot days. During that heat wave, 13 people died across Europe.
  • Satellite images showed vast areas of the Arctic engulfed in flames this week.
  • These events can be linked to the warmer temperatures and drier conditions that climate change brings. 

Thursday was Paris' hottest day in recorded history.
The thermometer in the French capital hit 108.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42.6 degrees Celsius). Locals hopped into the Trocadéro fountain across from the Eiffel Tower, and cyclists in the Tour de France donned vests made of ice
Belgium also experienced record-breaking heat - over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius) - and temperatures in the Netherlands soared above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for the first time ever.
All told, more then 10 people have died during Europe's recent heat wave, which comes on the heels of a similar heat wave in June that claimed at least a dozen lives. In the US, meanwhile, a heat wave on the East Coast last week put 147 million people under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning. At least four people died
On top of all that, the Arctic is burning. The wildfires razing the northernmost parts of Russia and Greenland are big enough to see from space.
Individual wildfires and heat waves can't be directly linked to climate change, but accelerated warming increases their likelihood. France's national weather agency has estimated that the number of heat waves in the country doubled in the past 34 years and will probably double again by 2050. In the US, the average number of heat waves in 50 major cities has tripled in the last 60 years or so, according to the US Global Change Research Program.
"Monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate," Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told the Associated Press in June. "This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming." 
n other words, yes, this summer's deadly extremes are part of a trend, and it's only going to get worse.
Climate change, by the numbers
For perspective, let's look at some numbers. 
Last month was the hottest June ever recorded in Earth's history, with temperatures nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit above average. July looks like it's on track to be the hottest month ever recorded, period.
This year overall is on pace to be the third hottest on record globally, according to Climate Central. Last year was the fourth warmest, behind 2016 (the warmest), 2015, and 2017.
This graphic from NASA depicts the warming trend quite clearly.
Scientists have also reported unprecedented melting in both Arctic and Antarctic glaciers. The Greenland ice sheet is losing ice six times faster than it was in the 1980s. Ice melt at the South Pole has increased six-fold, too.
Why climate change leads to more heat waves
When greenhouse gases (emitted by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal) enter the atmosphere, they trap more of the sun's heat on the planet, causing Earth's overall surface temperatures to rise.
As the Earth warms, severely hot days happen more frequently. Think of our planet's temperature range as a bell curve: Climate change shifts that entire curve towards the higher end of the temperature spectrum. The center of the curve may only move slightly, but that still puts a large chunk of potential days into the extreme range.
"So you know, a warming of 1 degree Celsius, which is what we've seen thus far, can lead to a 10-fold increase in the frequency of 100 degree days in New York City for example," climate scientist Michael Mann told the New York Times.

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