Why are countries around the world experiencing heatwaves?
The Straits Times looks at the reasons behind scorching temperatures around the world and their link to climate change.
What are heatwaves?
- Warm air rises from the ground
- High pressure cells in the atmosphere push warm air back towards the ground
- The pressure traps hot air like a lid on a pot
- Warm air compresses as it sinks, releasing more heat
- Heat causes the ground to lose moisture and become even warmer, increasing the risk of wildfires
- Fewer clouds are formed and this allows more sunlight to penetrate and warm the earth
Heatwaves around the world
Europe (England, Spain, Portugal, France)
In England, train tracks buckled, electricity companies reported mass outages and large grassland areas around London caught fire.
The authorities across southern Europe battled against huge wildfires in Spain, Greece and France on July 17, 2022.
Hundreds of deaths were blamed on soaring temperatures.
The intense heat felt across Europe in the past few weeks is mainly due to the Azores High – a slow-moving semi-permanent high pressure cell, said Professor Matthias Roth from the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Climate change has exacerbated the frequency of an extremely large Azores High, said National Institute of Education Assistant Professor Wang Jingyu.
What used to happen only once in 10 years in the pre-industrial period now occurs once every four years, said Prof Wang.
South Asia (India, Pakistan)
Record-shattering extreme temperatures were recorded between March and May, peaking at 50 deg C.
About 300 forest firest occurred in India in a single day on April 28, 2022.
As the climate warms, intense anti-cyclones are spawned more often, bringing heatwaves to India, said Singapore University of Social Sciences climate scientist Koh Tieh Yong.
Climate change reportedly made heatwaves in the region 30 times more likely.
The last heatwave was in April 2016, the hottest year recorded, with an annual mean temperature of 28.4 deg C.
Singapore experienced, on average, one to two heatwaves per decade.
A heatwave in Singapore is defined as three consecutive days when daily maximum temperatures are at least 35 deg C. The daily mean temperature during the period should be at least 29 deg C.
Singapore does not have large-scale high pressure systems, but localised systems can still produce heatwaves, said Prof Wang.
The 2016 heatwave was due to a natural climate phenomenon called El Nino, which brings warm and dry conditions.
More frequent and extended heatwaves with higher extreme temperatures are expected to hit Southeast Asia as the world warms, said director Benjamin Horton of Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore.
Click here for more weather related news.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.