The World Meteorological Organization is calling for action to halt climate change as extreme weather becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Heavy rainfall this week has triggered devastating floods across western Europe, killing and injuring scores of people, destroying homes and livelihoods. At the same time, parts of Scandinavia -- northern Europe’s coldest region -- are enduring scorching temperatures.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute says Finland had its warmest June on record, which has extended into July. Southern Finland it notes has had 27 consecutive days with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. By Finland’s normally frigid temperatures, that qualifies as a heatwave.
The western U.S. and Canada also have been gripped by heat, with many records broken in states of Nevada and Utah. Last August, Death Valley, California reached a temperature of 54.4 degrees Celsius, the world’s highest temperature record. But meteorologists believe Death Valley may have equaled that record a week ago on July 9.
The spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization, Clare Nullis, says the heatwave in the western U.S. has led to megadrought conditions and numerous wildfires.
"The heatwave that we saw in parts of the U.S. and Canada at the end of June…This heatwave would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change," said Nullis. "Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the heatwave at least 150 times more likely.”
Nullis says climate change already is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events. She adds many single events have been shown to have been made worse by global warming.
"We need to step up climate action," said Nullis. "We need to step up the level of ambition. We are not doing really enough to stay within the targets of the Paris agreement and keep temperatures below two degrees Celsius, even 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.”
The spokeswoman’s call echoes that of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who is urging all countries to do more to avoid a climate catastrophe linked to rising carbon dioxide emissions and temperatures.