Extreme Anomalies
Between January and June 2019 extreme weather events across the
world broke the century-mark

Kiran Pandey and Lalit Maurya

Record-breaking extreme weather events affected the world in 2018 and the trend continues this year. June 2019 was the warmest June ever recorded, according to latest data from Nasa. July is also on the same track. Between January and June 2019, instances of weather events smashed century-old records in several countries. Six out of the seven continents recorded extreme weather — heatwave, coldwave, floods, drought, cyclones, forest fires, hailstorms or lightening — as not seen in 50-100 years in the first half of the year. Here is a low down:


 



Oceania

Image Courtesy: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australia recorded the century’s hottest, driest and wettest months in this period. While Adelaide recorded the driest January in 62 years, the Daintree river in Queensland flooded the most in 118 years

Hottest and driest: With mean temperature exceeding 30 degrees Celsius the first time since records started being kept in 1910, January 2019 was the hottest for Australia.

In Adelaide, temperature reached 46.6°C that month, breaking an 80-year-old (since 1939) January record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology in South Australia. The provincial capital also recorded its driest January in 62 years (since ’57) — its West Terrace station recorded no rainfall. March 2019 was again Australia's hottest on record, with temperatures 2°C above the average; April temperatures were the seventh-highest in 110 years. This January was also the warmest and driest in 120 years in Tasmania.



“Climate change is cranking up the intensity of extreme heat,” Climate Council Acting Chief Executive Martin Rice said, blaming it in inaction regarding climate change. “The January heat record showed the government needed to curb Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which have increased during each of the past four years,” he added.

Wettest in 118 years

Daintree’s flood was in the backdrop of record rainfall in late January and early February. The town of Townsville received as much rainfall in nine days as it normally does in a year, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. In only 24 hours, it rained 425 mm.

In neighbouring New Zealand, a January temperature of 18.8°C was 1.7°C above the 1981-2010 average and the third-highest for the month since records started being kept in 1909. It was also the second-driest January (since 1919) — Cape Reinga received only 4 mm rain, according to NIWA National Climate Centre. Another weather station at Masterton recorded a precipitation of 6 mm — its driest since records started in 1926.

Acknowledges the climate change emergency

Australia is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, warned a 2018 report, which called it a current and existential national security risk to the region. The Australian Climate Council’s latest report confirmed that climate change was increasing the frequency and/or severity of extreme weather. Australians were suffering, as a result. “We are experiencing climate change right now across Australia,” said Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie. Despite the government’s climate policy, pollution from greenhouse gases has increased over the past four years. “Tackling climate change effectively requires a credible national policy to drive down pollution across all sectors,” said Rice, also the head of research at the non-profit.

The region seems to have recognised the emergency — 28 of 537 local councils have called for urgent climate action. These were among 800 across the globe to have declared climate emergencies, encompassing more than 140 million people worldwide.


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Image Courtesy: EPA-EFE

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Asia

While Hong Kong recorded the warmest winter in 135 years, Bahrain had the fifth-highest rainfall in April in 117 years. India too had the second-longest spell of high temperatures in 31 years

With a mean temperature of 18.1°C — 1.8°C above the normal — the Hong Kong recorded its third-warmest January on record. The minimum and maximum temperatures were the third- and fifth-warmest on record. The average temperature between December 2018 and February 2019 was 19.1°C — 0.7°C above normal, according to Hong Kong Observatory. That’s the highest since it started keeping records in 1884. In March 2019, Hong Kong experienced its warmest winter.

There may be more in store, warned Law Hiu-fai on behalf of the observatory, which has predicted 2019 to be one of the hottest years and forecast between four and seven tropical cyclones.



Japan’s warmest May in 95 years

Across Japan, 36 weather stations recorded all-time high temperatures. The one in Obihiro recorded 38.8°C — a degree above the previous record set on 12 July, 1924. In April, Bahrain received its fifth-highest rainfall in 117 years. In six days, the country received 31.3 mm rainfall, more than thrice the average for the whole month.

India’s second-longest high-temperature spell after 31 years

The country reportedly endured 32 heatwaves this year, just one short of the 1988 record of 33. 2019 was predicted to be a year of extreme weather due to the combined effect of climate change and an evolving El Nino. As extreme weather attributed to climate change made headlines during the year, the Asia-Pacific Climate Leaders’ Declaration in June by nations, states, regions and territories demonstrated commitment to ramp up efforts on climate action.




Europe

Europe witnessed unusually hot months in 2019, smashing record as old as 40-110 years. The continent had an early onset of summer and June was the hottest in the continent’s history with average temperature 2°C above normal. The continent also recorded the wettest March 2019 in Denmark and the coolest May in Austria

United Kingdom recorded its second-highest February mean temperature in 110 years and the warmest June in 40 years. The national mean temperature in February was 6°C, or 2.4°C above the 1981-2010 average — second only to the February of 1998. The country also had its hottest day of the year on June 29, 2019 as temperatures soared across southern England. According to the meteorological office, the temperature in Heathrow and Northolt in west London reached 34°C, making it one of the warmest June days in about 40 years.

The maximum temperature in February broke 118 years’ — since the beginning of records — in the Netherlands: On 26 February, De Bilt recorded 18.9°C.



Spain: 4th driest February in 63 years

The national average precipitation in the month totalled 15 mm (0.59 inch) — 28 per cent of its normal February total. This February was the driest only after 1997, 2000 and 1990. In Austria, a reading of 24.2°C in Güssing and Deutschlandsberg broke the earlier record of 29 February, 1960. With a national average precipitation total of 26 mm (55% of average), the country also had its second-driest March after 2012. An earlier-than-usual summer sparked wildfires and the country battled its worst such fire in two decades. In Spain, Girona recorded 43.9°C on 28 June — its highest ever.

Germany had its eighth-hottest March in its 138-year record-keeping. Nationally average March temperature was 6.6°C, 2.3°C above the 1981-2010 average.

Finland too had significant instances of the warmest April on record in 118 years. In June 2019, France experienced extreme heatwave, with the highest recorded temperature of 45.9°C

Denmark: Wettest in 145 year

March 2019 was Denmark's wettest March since national records began in 1874, with a nationally average precipitation total of 106 mm. Spain too had the wettest April after 11 years. In fact, the country’s precipitation data in April 2019 showed that the month was the fourth-wettest since record-keeping started in 1965: 96 mm of rainfall was recorded, which was 48 per cent above the 1981-2010 average of 65 mm. Austria recorded the coolest May in 28 years.

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) had warned about such consequences of climate change. While projecting southern and south-eastern Europe as climate change hotspots, it said the magnitude of future climate change and its impacts depend on the effectiveness of global climate mitigation efforts. “Mitigation is central to limit the long-term risks of climate change,” said Hans-Martin Füssel an author of the report.


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North America

Extreme weather continued to affect the United States of America between January and June 2019. While January was the coldest in its recorded history, the June heatwave trumped a century-old record in the south-east. Heatwave in Macon and Augusta in Georgia, Charleston the largest city in South Carolina, Wilmington a port city in North Carolina and Jacksonville in Florida all broke century records. The number of tornadoes also doubled.

Historically coldest; wettest in 95 years

The beginning of 2019 was marked by extreme coldwave in many parts of the US, killing at least 22 persons. Seattle was buried under record snow. Mudslides, snow, and flash floods soaked California and a strong storm known as a ‘Kona Low’ pummelled the Hawaiian Islands. Boston recorded the lowest January temperature in the entire history of observations. Alaska had the wettest March in 94 years. In neighbouring Canada, Ottawa and Toronto received record snowfall.



Number of tornadoes doubled in 2019

In only six months (Jan-June 2019), 1,171 tornadoes were reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the same period in 2018, 573 tornadoes were reported. Victor Gensini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, attributed this to a phenomenon called Madden-Julia oscillation, similar to the El Nino effect.

A new report warned about the increasing number of dangerously hot days per year will skyrocket this century if little or nothing is done about climate change. This will put millions of Americans at risk. Climate change is already manifesting itself in the form of deadlier extreme events such as storms, rising sea levels and floods, the report said. The forecast for extreme heat for the rest of the 21st Century shows an intensity of heat that will affect the daily lives of more Americans than ever before.



Image Courtesy: Reuters


South America

Argentina recorded the wettest January, while Brazil had the driest January in 84 years

Argentina's 24-hour rainfall record for 25 years broke with the Argentine city of Resistencia recording 224 mm rainfall on Jan 8, 2019. According to its national meteorological service, SMN Argentina, this was
much higher than the previous highest of 206 mm recorded in March 1994.

In 2018, Argentina suffered a severe drought, the worst in half a century. It crushed the country’s agriculture sector and strained the country’s economy. Now the wettest January too will impact the economy.



Brazil recorded high temperatures and the driest January, breaking records of 55-84 years. Rio de Janeiro recorded a temperature of 37.4°C, the second-hottest since 1961. Curitiba in southern Brazil recorded 30.3°C, the warmest since 1935. Brasilia, the federal district, faced its third-driest January in 57 years, with a cumulative rainfall of 70.9 mm. In Chile, the Atacama Desert witnessed rains like never before, including regions that never recorded rains in history.

In March 2019, it rained so much in this desert — the driest place on the planet — that a waterfall that remained dry for 10 years came to life. Scientifically and figuratively, Atacama is the new landscape to witness the impacts of climate change. In this context Chile’s recent plan to be climate neutral by 2050 is a significant development. This is part of the environment ministry’s larger long-term climate strategy, to be updated every 10 years.

These events during the first six months of 2019, paint a sordid picture of the impact of climate change on the world at present and what the future entails.


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Data source:

✸   World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
✸   Global Climate Report - June 2019, NOAA
✸   India Meteorological Department (IMD)
✸   Relief Web
✸   Regional News Media (Across the world)