Living in a warming world means experiencing a litany of unexpected events.
From an increase in the population of iguanas in Florida and super nests of wasps in Alabama, to world-class soccer stars competing in record-breaking heat in France and torrential rainfall in India, this week has seen a slew of unprecedented and unexpected climate impacts.
European heat wave linked to climate change
Last month was the hottest June ever experienced in Europe. In France, where athletes are currently competing in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the country saw its highest temperature since records began — a small town in the southern part of the country, Gallargues-le-Monteuex, reached 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on June 28. That’s more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the previous record set in 2003.
New analysis out this week by scientists trying to decipher the degree to which climate change played a role in these soaring temperatures revealed that global warming may indeed have made the heat wave “at least five times” more likely.
— Oliver Milman (@olliemilman) June 28, 2019
Areas in Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Spain also experienced record-breaking heat, and Austria logged its warmest June on record, which was “in large part due to the heat wave,” researchers said.
As a result, there were wildfires in Spain and 4,000 schools closed early in France. And in Toulouse, France, a conference on extreme weather and climate change was also disrupted.
Deadly rainfall in drought-stricken India
This week, at least 35 people died due to heavy rainfall in the Indian state of Maharashtra. On Tuesday, nearly 15 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours — the worst Mumbai had experienced in 14 years. Flights and trains were cancelled and around 1,000 people were left stranded in the city awaiting rescue.
India’s monsoon season lasts from June until September. Typically, the country gets about 70% of its annual rainfall during this season — water on which farmers rely.
The deadly rainfall this week, however, comes after a drier-than-normal start to the monsoon season. June ended with a third less rainfall than the 50-year average, according to the India Meteorological Department. This has sparked concerns about access to adequate drinking water as well as fears over crop production; 9.5% less land has been cultivated this year for summer crops so far.
Meanwhile, a report by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization warns that India’s agriculture and construction sectors are expected to be hard-hit by climate change. Global warming, it states, will likely lead to a productivity loss equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs by 2030.
Warmer winters producing wasp ‘super nests’
Warmer winters could be leading to emergence of wasp ‘super nests’ as The New York Times reported recently.
In Alabama, at least four super nests — huge colonies made up of the aggressive yellow jacket wasps that survive for a second year rather than dying-off in winter — have been spotted so far. Typically, only about one or two such nests are spotted in a year, during June and July. However, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System issued a news release warning residents to expect more this year.
“Imagine a colony of yellow jackets the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, filled with 15,000 of the stinging insects. Now, imagine more than 90 of these super nests in Alabama,” the news release states.
That’s what the state experienced in 2006 and this year could be shaping up to be another record-breaker.
Yellow jacket wasps usually don’t survive in the cold — only the queens have an antifreeze compound in their blood that allows them to start a new colony in the spring. But with warmer winters and more queens surviving, that means more wasps are hatching.
Rapid sea ice loss in Antarctica
New satellite data reveals rapid sea ice loss in Antarctica. According to researchers, the continent has seen a “precipitous” fall in sea ice since 2014 with the rate of loss much faster than that experienced in the Arctic; as much sea ice was lost in four years in Antarctica as was lost in the Arctic over 34 years.
Scientists are still determining exactly what caused the dramatic loss in sea ice. In fact, the steep drop comes after 40 years of steady growth in Antarctica’s sea ice, further puzzling researchers as it reached a record low in 2017.
Unlike melting land ice, sea ice loss does not contribute to sea level rise. However, the loss of the highly-reflective white ice does contribute to global warming — darker surfaces such as open water absorb more heat than they reflect. The more sea ice is lost, the more heat is trapped, thereby leading to more ice loss in a vicious circle.
As Andrew Shepherd, a professor at Leeds University in the U.K., told The Guardian, “The rapid decline has caught us by surprise and changes the picture completely. Now sea ice is retreating in both hemispheres and that presents a challenge because it could mean further warming.”
Melting glaciers in Greenland are creating sand
Everyone knows that Greenland’s glaciers are melting. But with that comes a lot of erosion — and a lot of sand.
According to scientists, 8% of the annual sediment delivered to the world’s oceans comes from the Greenland ice sheet, and they expect that to increase with climate change.
And as The New York Times reported this week, scientists are starting a research project to see whether the “erosive power of ice” — one that is set to continue with climate change as glaciers melt — is enough to produce the highly sought after resource; sand is vital to the construction industry but it’s increasingly hard to come by as demand grows with urbanization.
More iguanas in Florida
Iguanas thrive in warmer weather. And now Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued a notice encouraging homeowners to “kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible.”
As one local resident who used to love seeing the reptiles around his home told The Washington Post, “They aren’t cute anymore…. They’re a menace.”
A proliferation of iguanas comes with a host of problems biologists say, including erosion, degradation of infrastructure (such as canal banks, sea walls, building foundations), and harm to landscaping and ornamental plants. They can also carry salmonella.
According to scientists, climate change is helping iguanas spread further north and more quickly. Between 2000 and 2018, for example, Grand Cayman island saw its iguana population expand from almost none to an estimated 1.6 million. Now, Florida is trying to take control before things in the state become similarly explosive.