Situated thousands of miles apart, China and the US currently share one thing in common – the intensity of heatwaves. Both countries are experiencing record-breaking temperatures amid intense, climate change-fuelled heatwaves that have raised the alarm for public health, agriculture, and energy generation.
What Is Happening?
China recorded a staggering 52.2C (125.96F) on Monday in the Sanbao village of Xinjiang province, located in the country’s northwest region. Local news forecasted that the heat will persist for a least another five days, prompting authorities to issue high-temperature warnings in several cities.
Monday’s temperature broke the previous record of 50.3C (122.54F), which was documented in 2015 near Ayding, also located in Turpan.
The scorching heat recorded in China in recent weeks has pushed residents to turn to fans and air conditioners to cool down. According to the Chinese Energy Investment Corporation – one of the world’s largest generators of power – the volume of electricity generated on Monday touched unprecedented levels, reaching a total of 4.09 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, 40 million kWh more than the previous record.
The capital Beijing has also been grappling with one of the most intense summers on record, with temperatures skyrocketing past 40C (104F) for weeks on end. Last month, the capital was gripped by extreme temperatures, with the thermometer soaring to 41.1C (106F), the second-highest temperature recorded since weather documentation began in the city in 1961.
Aside from China, the US is also battling long heatwaves blazing across several sates.
California in particular has been experiencing a long heat dome, a phenomenon that occurs when the ground heats up and loses moisture, trapping the heat in an enclosed space and resulting in a spike in temperatures. On Sunday, Death Valley recorded a temperature of 53.9C (128F), close to hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth (56.7C, or 134F), which was also recorded in the same area more than a century ago.
The sizzling heat is projected to linger until next week, as the heat dome moves to Western states from Texas. The state has experienced three consecutive weeks of fierce heat that has knocked out electrical power from thousands of households as its power grid faltered.
More on the topic: Texas Energy Crisis: Why Is the US State’s Power Grid So Fragile?
What’s Behind the Heatwaves?
The world has already heated up by 1.1C (33.98F) since the Industrial Revolution, which fostered the burning of fossil fuels, the main source of carbon dioxide.
While heatwaves are a natural occurrence in the summer months in many parts of the world, climate change has resulted in tumultuous patterns by increasing their intensity and frequency, making them as abnormally fierce as the ones the world has learned to know in recent years experience today.
According to a 2023 study by the World Weather Attribution (WWA), climate change makes heatwaves at least 30 times more likely to occur in Asia. In April alone, Thailand recorded its hottest day ever with 45.5C (113.9F), India saw soaring temperatures up to 44C (111.2C) in some northern and eastern cities, while Laos recorded its hottest day ever with 42.9C (109.22) in the Sainyabuli province.
In the latest report published earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) insisted that we have reached a point of no return as the planet is “more likely than not” to reach a 1.5C (34.7F) rise since pre-industrial levels. And only last month, experts warned that CO2 levels are at a historic high and are currently 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.
The occurrence of heatwaves is not only limited to the US and Asia. Last month was the warmest June ever recorded globally.
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