The World Bakes Under Extreme Heat
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The World Bakes Under Extreme Heat

Warming oceans and heat domes are contributing to one of the hottest summers on record

Thu, Jul 20, 2023 9:38amGrey Clock 4 min

Deadly heat waves are upending daily life in large parts of the U.S., Europe and Asia, as warming oceans and unprecedented humidity fuel one of Earth’s hottest summers on record.

Meteorologists say last month was the hottest June on record and 2023 could be the hottest year ever if July’s record temperatures continue, straining businesses and threatening power grids.

Several factors are contributing to the record heat this summer, said Brett Anderson, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. Among them: Unusually warm oceans are raising humidity levels; several heat domes are trapping warmth around the world for longer than usual; and jet streams are causing deadly storms like the ones in Vermont this month to move slowly.

The hot seas and a recurring warm climate pattern called El Niño are compounding the effects of climate change, which scientists say is contributing to higher global temperatures.

“We are seeing an increasing number and more extremes and this is because of global warming,” said Jose Alvaro Mendes Pimpao Alves Silva, a consulting climatologist for the World Meteorological Organization, referring to extreme heat waves. “These situations are not unprecedented. But as they happen, their intensity is higher.”

Climate change has exacerbated extreme heat events, which have increased sixfold since the 1980s, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Increasing surface temperatures from climate warming make heat waves longer, more intense, and produce the weather conditions that keep them stalled over one place.

Global ocean temperatures hit record highs for the third consecutive month after El Niño conditions strengthened in June, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

High-pressure heat domes that bring sweltering temperatures have occurred during the past few summers, but having four of them over land at the same time is still surprising to Carl Schreck, a tropical climatologist at North Carolina State University who works with NOAA.

“We’ve seen this over the last couple of summers, but it’s still remarkable when it does appear,” said Schreck.

Still, the sustained heat waves haven’t stopped tourists from hitting the beach in Spain or visiting landmarks in Washington, D.C. Some have even basked in the heat in California’s Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth.


Several cities, including Phoenix, have broken records as the southern U.S. deals with unrelenting heat. El Paso, Texas, logged a record 33rd day in a row Tuesday with triple-digit temperatures. Texas’ power grids have held up despite concerns they couldn’t handle demand surges.

In the North, parts of Michigan, New York and Vermont have also broken daily temperature records this summer.

The waters off Florida in recent weeks have been hotter than 90 degrees, several degrees above normal, according to NOAA. The temperatures are threatening the coral reefs off the coast and fueling heat and humidity in the southern part of the state.


Europe is baking under a sustained heat wave that is covering much of the Mediterranean, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The Spanish state meteorological service warned of temperatures of between 108 and 111 degrees and issued alerts for the interior and Balearic Islands. Parts of the Balkans are also under alert.

The Italian island of Sardinia was forecast to approach an all-time high for the continent on Tuesday. Sicily set the highest recorded temperature in Europe at 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit, in August 2021.

Alberto Urpi, the mayor of Sanluri in Sardinia, said authorities had issued a weather red alert for the area, advising people to stay inside from late morning until 6 p.m.

“We are ready,” said Urpi. “We’ve gotten used to these heat waves and have had time to organise our response.”

Authorities closed the Acropolis in Athens for a large part of Friday and Saturday due to the heat. The Greek capital is forecast to stay above 97 degrees all week, topping out at almost 110 on Sunday.

Middle East

As temperatures soar to about 100 degrees across Egypt, the government has been cutting power in neighbourhoods across the country, forcing ordinary Egyptians to go without air conditioning, fans and refrigeration even during the hottest hours of the day.

“We are having horrible nights. Babies are crying because of the high temperatures and our refrigerator broke down,” said Nemaa Moustafa, a 31-year-old homemaker with newly born twins.

Egypt is in the midst of an economic crisis that has officials scrambling to bring in foreign currency to pay off staggering debts and stave off a currency collapse. Diverting the country’s natural-gas resources away from domestic use and toward lucrative exports is one way to get U.S. dollars.

In El-Shorouk city, on the outskirts of greater Cairo, residents said power cuts were happening four or five times a day, leaving them without electricity for hours. Some said they were also experiencing water disruptions making it more difficult to cope with the heat. Many stores and supermarkets have struggled to keep food fresh as refrigerators go down amid the cuts.


Another heat wave is simultaneously sweeping across parts of Asia. In China, a village in the northwestern region of Xinjiang hit a record high 126 degrees, according to state media.

During the heat wave, the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry met Chinese officials including Beijing’s top foreign policy envoy, Wang Yi, and Premier Li Qiang to discuss how to accelerate decarbonisation and other climate change goals. China and the U.S. are the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.

Silva from the World Meteorological Organization said there are currently high-pressure systems trapping hot air in the region. The systems will remain in place over the next several days.

“It’s moving very slowly, but we will not have this situation forever,” Silva said.

—Chao Deng contributed to this article.



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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

Prepare yourself for the year of the peach

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Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 


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