Global lens

How heat waves are wreaking havoc around the world

'A collision of multiple cumulative climate hazards'

Climate change has brought on heat waves for many regions across the world this year, and it's only just beginning — some are expected to continue through a long, hot summer. On top of that, El Niño is expected to make a return this year, exacerbating the warmer temperatures. Different countries and regions are facing different consequences from the heat waves, and not all will be able to adapt accordingly.

Spain's agriculture

Spain experienced record-breaking temperatures in April, reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, reported to The New York Times. Some places reached even 25 degrees above what is considered the seasonal norm. "This magnitude is extremely rare in such a big area and for several days in a row," climatologist Maximiliano Herrera told the Times. "Hundreds of stations are breaking their records with huge margins of up to 5 degrees Celsius above the previous ones and even approaching the records of May." Because of this, the Spanish government plans to ban outdoor work when the weather hits a certain temperature to avoid occupational hazards. Spain's summers have been on average five weeks longer than in the 1980s, according to a study by the Polytechnic University of Catalonia

At the same time, the country has been experiencing a long-running drought, which has already affected reservoir levels and led fields to dry up. Authorities have also warned of earlier wildfires than usual. "The persistent dry heat of this spring in the Iberian Peninsula is putting the agriculture under stress and, in the medium term, it's possible that we will suffer water shortages," Herrera said. A report found that there have been "irreversible losses to more than 3.5 million hectares [more than 8.5 million acres] of cereals." Spain's agriculture minister requested aid from the European Union, citing "an exceptional circumstance."

Bangladesh's food security

Bangladesh's temperatures are up approximately 12 percent from this time last year, according to PBS. Overall temperatures are hotter and more humid than they have been in six decades. "It is unusual. Almost the entire country was under cover of a heat wave. It is a new experience and also alarming at the same time," Bazlur Rashid, a meteorologist with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, told Mongabay. The country is being forced to perform power cuts as energy demand soars amid cooling needs in the heat. 

The most pressing issue is that the heat is impacting the country's food security. Rice production in particular has struggled. The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has warned farmers to properly irrigate their fields, with the director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension reporting that the heat has already ruined 348 acres of rice fields, Mongabay continued. Even though the worst of the heat is beginning to subside, other problems like flooding are afoot. "In the Sylhet region, rain has already started, and it will continue," said Arifuzzaman Bhuyan of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center. "In May first or second week, there might be a flood in some parts of the country. But we have to wait a few more days."

India's equity

India also had a record-breaking April, with 60 percent of the country experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures, writes The Conversation. The country previously experienced record-breaking heatwaves in April 2022, which put 90 percent of Indians at risk of hunger and poverty, a study published in PLOS Climate found. This metric is only going to worsen as the heat wave continues this year and moving forward. "India is currently facing a collision of multiple cumulative climate hazards," said the researchers. "Long-term projections indicate that Indian heat waves could cross the survivability limit for a healthy human resting in the shade by 2050."

The heat wave will impact the poorest and most vulnerable population, straining efforts to promote equality, CNN writes. The study found that the "unprecedented burdens on public health, agriculture, and other socio-economic and cultural systems" caused by the heat wave "can hinder or reverse the country's progress in fulfilling the sustainable development goals." The study authors remarked to The Conversation that current efforts "for assessing the sensitivity of India to climate change will not help people resist the exceptional heat seen in recent years and must be upgraded immediately."

Texas's heat grid

Texas is expected to have a heat wave during the summer that could disrupt the state's energy, according to AccuWeather. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas predicts that the energy demand will hit a new record this summer and that fossil fuels will not be enough to cover it. Last year, the state's energy demand hit a record high which will likely be beat this year. The state has a history of power grid failures — winter storms caused major problems just two years ago.

"On the hottest day of summer, there is no longer enough on-demand dispatchable power generation to meet demand in the ERCOT system," Texas Public Utility Commission Chair Peter Lake said at a press conference. "So we will be relying on renewables to keep the lights on." This is likely to lead to power outages within Texas. "Our risk goes up as the sun goes down because it's still hot at 9 p.m.," said Lake. "Our solar generation is all gone, so at that point of the day, we will be relying on wind generation," which is not guaranteed.

Greece's groundwater

Greece is bracing for its "hottest summer ever," according to Efthymios Lekkas, a professor of Geology and Natural Disaster Management at Athens University. The heat coming on top of a prolonged drought as well as coastal flooding, raising concerns for the country's ability to adapt to increasingly extreme weather. The Greek City Times called the combination a "horror scenario for the near future." A study by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki found that there could be up to 16 more days with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius per year.

"The major problem is to preserve the surface water, but mainly the underground water," Lekkas explained. "At the moment there are thousands of boreholes, which pump as much water as they can pump, but within two years we will have waterlogging, that is, seawater will pollute the wells." This will cause a problem for agriculture as the flooding sea gets mixed with the lack of rainfall. "The Eastern Mediterranean is the most sensitive region. All of this is part of what we call the climate crisis."


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