Extreme heat and rainfall highlight need for more climate action, warns WMO

A current wave of extreme heat and rainfall events across the Northern hemisphere is further evidence of the urgent need for more action on climate change warns the World Meteorological Organisation.

New daily and station temperature records have been broken in multiple countries and it is possible that some national records may fall. June saw the warmest global average temperature on record, which continued into July, according to preliminary WMO figures. At the same time, heavy precipitation has caused devastating floods and loss of life in some countries, including the Republic of Korea, Japan and Northeastern US.

Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, said: “The extreme weather – an increasingly frequent occurrence in our warming climate – is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies. This underlines the increasing urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.

“In addition, we have to step up efforts to help society adapt to what is unfortunately becoming the new normal. The WMO community is providing forecasts and warnings to protect lives and livelihoods as we strive to achieve our goal of early warnings for all.”

Much of southern Europe and the Mediterranean has been gripped by extreme heat coming from North Africa, with weekly temperatures up to 5°C above the long-term average in the Mediterranean, according to the climate monitoring node of the WMO’s regional climate centre for Europe.

The Spanish state meteorological service AEMET warned of temperatures of between 42° Celsius and 44°C and issued top-level red alerts for some interior parts of the country and the Balearic Islands. On 17 July, the EU's Copernicus emergency management service warned of a “very extreme” danger of fires in parts of Spain, in Sardinia and Sicily (Italy) and parts of Greece.

Meanwhile, heavy rains and flooding caused severe damage and loss of life in several parts of the world. 40 people were reported killed as torrential rain and flash floods hit the Republic of Korea on 14 July, while floods in Northwest China killed a reported 15 people, prompting President Xi Jinping to urge greater efforts to protect the public from extreme weather.

In northern India, roads and bridges collapsed and houses were swept away as rivers overflowed during heavy monsoonal rainfall and flooding which killed dozens of people, while the Japanese Meteorological Agency issued heavy rain emergency warnings on Monday for the Fukuoka and Oita prefectures, on Kyushu, the country’s third largest island. A new daily rainfall record of 376.0mm fell on 10 July at Minousan and 361.5mm at Hikosan, both in the Kyushu region.

In Northeastern US, parts of New England are facing yet more torrential rainfall on saturated soils following serious floods at the start of July. New York issued a flash flood emergency and more than four million people were under floods alerts on 11 July. Stefan Uhlenbrook, director of hydrology, water and cryosphere at WMO, said: “As the planet warms, the expectation is that we will see more and more intense, more frequent, more severe rainfall events, leading also to more severe flooding.

“Developed countries like Japan are extremely alert, and they’re also very well prepared when it comes to flood management measures. But many low-income countries have no warnings in place, hardly any flood defence structures and no integrated flood management. WMO is committed to improving the situation.”

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