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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Extreme Heat World Swelters in Record-Breaking Heat

Extreme Heat World Swelters in Record-Breaking Heat

“Much of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing withering high temperatures, which scientists warn are increasingly likely.

  1. Tucson, Ariz. 

    Rebecca Noble for The New York Times
  2. Tokyo

    Associated Press
  3. Milan

    Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times
  4. Shanghai

    Aly Song/Reuters
  5. Rome

    Associated Press
  6. Seville, Spain

    Cristina Quicler/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  7. Rome

    Domenico Stinellis/Associated Press
  8. Santa Fe, N.M.

    Ramsay de Give for The New York Times
  9. Tokyo

    Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press
  10. Damascus, Syria

    Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters
  11. Athens

    Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press

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Less than two weeks after the Earth recorded what scientists said were likely its hottest days in modern history, punishing heat waves are gripping much of the Northern Hemisphere.

The record-breaking temperatures are being driven by emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and by the return of El NiƱo, a cyclical weather pattern.

A man standing outside in the sun pours a bottle of water over his head.
Cooling off during a heat wave in Tehran last week. An airport in Iran recorded a heat index of 152 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday.Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Even regions where high heat is normal, and where those who can help it barely venture outside in the summer, have been experiencing extremes.

At Persian Gulf International Airport on Iran’s southwestern coast, the heat index— which measures how hot it really feels outside based on both temperature and humidity — hit an eye-popping high of 152 degrees Fahrenheit (66.7 Celsius) at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to weather data.

People walk on an arid pass in a canyon.
Hikers in Death Valley National Park last week.Ty Oneil/Associated Press

The latest punishing heat wave in the southwestern United States has weather watchers again obsessing over whether Death Valley will rewrite the record books this summer for the highest temperature recorded on the planet.

Some forecasts had projected that Death Valley — the spectacular 3,000-square-mile stretch of the Mojave Desert along the California-Nevada border — would see temperatures as high as 131 degrees Fahrenheit this past weekend, which would have surpassed the world mark of 130 degrees set in 2021 that some experts consider the reliably recorded record. But the area fell short, reaching 128 degrees on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

People sit outside at a restaurant in a square in Florence, Italy.
In Florence, Italy, last week. Europe’s power grid has managed to handle the increased demand during the continent’s recent heat wave.Francesca Volpi for The New York Times

While it may be small consolation to people sweltering in the heat wave enveloping southern Europe, electric grids in countries in the region like Italy and Spain have so far met the added demand for power for air-conditioning without any extreme price surges.

In a sense, Europe is benefiting from actions taken last year, when soaring natural gas prices resulting from constraints on flows from Russia drove electric power prices to record levels. The European electric grid was also plagued by other problems, including mechanical issues that idled large numbers of France’s nuclear plants.

A woman wearing shorts and holding a fan walks through a shopping area in Milan.
Researchers have found that extreme temperatures reduce labor productivity, damage crops, raise mortality rates, disrupt global trade and dampen investment.Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

The economic impact of the pitiless heat wave that is scorching southern Europe, the United States and much of the Northern Hemisphere may be short-lived in most spots, with the temporary closure of tourist sites, the abandonment of outdoor dining and a rise in electricity use related to air-conditioning.

But over the longer term, the economic fallout caused by climate change is likely to be profound.

A line of people wait outside an ornate building.
A long line for gelato near the Duomo in Milan on Monday.Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

Travelers to Europe may have anticipated the crowded sites, full hotels and workers’ strikes as industry experts pointed to a returning tourism demand that is outpacing even prepandemic levels. But the latest extreme weather has flagged another danger for visitors: summer heat waves, which climate researchers say will become longer, more frequent and more intense in Europe.

The soaring temperatures in recent days have coincided with a popular time to visit Europe, the most popular overseas destination for American travelers this year, industry watchers say. And while extreme weather has caused travel disruptions in the past, particularly in countries not set up to withstand it, the heat can also be deadly: More than 61,000 people died in last summer’s heat waves in Europe, according to a recent study.

Thousands of people evacuated as multiple wildfires burned near Athens.Orestis Panagiotou/EPA, via Shutterstock

As firefighters in Greece scramble to put out multiple fires that have broken out amid the hot, dry conditions, dramatic television footage has shown desperate residents using water hoses to try to douse parched land in seaside resorts south of Athens as thick gray smoke billowed above.

Thousands of people fled their homes in villages south, west and north of Athens, the Greek capital, on Monday, and the authorities evacuated scores more from three children’s camps and a retirement home. Disturbing footage also showed horses being led away from burning stables as other animals shrieked in fear or pain.

A man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a uniform with fluorescent accents uses a broom to sweep a street on a sunny day.
A street sweeper in Ronda, Spain, on Friday. The country has adopted numerous measures in an effort to cope with extreme heat.Jorge Guerrero/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Spain faces increasingly intense and early heat waves, the government has turned to a centuries-old mitigation strategy: the siesta.

In May, the national authorities introduced a package of measures to cope with extreme temperatures that include banning certain types of outdoor work during periods of extreme heat, essentially enshrining the siesta into law for some workers. Companies operating in sectors such as street cleaning and agriculture are now requested to get their employees indoors whenever the national weather agency issues high temperature warnings.

A man transporting water on a motorbike in Hanoi, Vietnam, during a heat wave in May.
Nhac Nguyen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For millions of people in South and Southeast Asia, the stiflingly hot and humid heat wave began long before the summer. April and May are usually the hottest months of the year in the region, as temperatures rise until the annual monsoon rains bring relief.

India’s hot season began abnormally early, recording its hottest February in history. In mid-April, New Delhi saw temperatures soar above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). At least 11 people died of heat stroke on a single day. Temperatures were abnormally high in May, too.

A many wearing a reflective vest rides a bicycle across a street. The sun blazes in the background.
A delivery cyclist on Monday in Milan, one of many cities in Italy that are suffering under extremely high temperatures.Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

In one of the most extreme heat waves Europe has had this summer, executives in suits rushed from cabs into Milan’s air-conditioned offices. Tourists sipped cold mimosas under clouds of vapor at the Bar at Ralph Lauren, and the lowered roller blinds behind iron balconies testified to their owners’ departure to their holiday homes.

But below, scores of delivery riders cycled under the sun to shuttle sushi and poke bowls to office buildings. Handlers drenched in sweat unloaded the tourists’ luggage from planes on the airport’s incendiary tarmac. With their safety vests sometimes worn on bare, burned chests, laborers carried buckets of concrete along the highway that connects Milan to the seaside.

Erin McCann
July 18, 2023, 7:10 a.m. ET4 hours ago

You’re hearing a lot about record heat this week. But a lot of those measurements are preliminary. In 2021, The Times explored the process of formally certifying record temperatures, which can sometimes take months or even years. Read more here.

A large sign above a building in a public square reads 44 degrees Celsius.
Temperatures in Rome hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday.Tiziana Fabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After days of scorching temperatures, forecasters said on Tuesday that an intense heat wave could soon break records in continental Europe.

Much of Italy is engulfed by the heat, with temperatures expected to reach 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) in the nation’s central and southern regions. The country’s Health Ministry has placed 20 of Italy’s 27 cities under the highest heat warning.

A power plant with three red-and-white striped stacks in the distance, with a shrub-filled plaza in the foreground.
A coal-fired power plant in Beijing that is used when electricity demand is especially high.Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

China has been using record electricity this summer as a heat wave persists, causing the country’s power plants to burn even more coal than usual.

Southeastern China set a record for power consumption on July 11, and the region’s state-controlled China Southern Power Grid expects even higher usage later this summer, according to the official China News agency.

Erin McCann
July 18, 2023, 6:20 a.m. ET5 hours ago

Parts of the United States have been baking for weeks under temperatures that are far higher than usual. The average high temperature in Miami from July 1-13 was 94.5 degrees — the hottest on record for that period. Here’s a recent roundup of other records across the country.

A man in dark pants and a dark shirt holds a jacket above his head as he walks in the sun.
Hiding from the sun in Yokohama, Japan, on Monday.Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Japan’s summers are typically sweltering, but as temperatures rose into the triple digits in the center of the country this week, ambulances rushed heat stroke victims, many of them elderly, to hospitals.

At the annual festival in the Gion district of Kyoto on Monday, attended by about 150,000 people in Japan’s former capital, nine people aged between 8 and their 80s were taken to a hospital after succumbing to temperatures of close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius).

A woman holds an umbrella up as she walks past a standing fan on a street.
Tuesday was the 27th day this year that the city of Beijing has recorded temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit — the highest number of days in one year since records began. Jade Gao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the sandstone desert of China’s far west, a local meteorological station recorded an all-time high temperature of 126 degrees. In central China, heat-induced mechanical problems trapped tourists riding on a cable car in midair.

The heat wave choking China is so intense that it even became a repeated talking point for John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, as he met with China’s premier on Tuesday in Beijing to discuss cooperation on slowing global warming.

On Tuesday, Phoenix was poised to break its own record for consecutive days of high temperatures of at least 110 degrees.
Matt York/Associated Press

On Monday, Phoenix reached a miserable milestone: It was the first time since 1974 that it had 18 days in a row of 110-degree or more temperatures. On Tuesday, it was poised to break that 49-year-old record and hit Day 19. The forecast called for a high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

People in the Southwest are used to brutal summers. Phoenix has had plenty of days that soar past 100 degrees. Water misters spritz patios, and neighborhoods and playgrounds clear out in the midday sun. Monsoons usually sweep through with refreshing relief. But this stagnant summer is testing even the hardiest, and putting many more people at risk.

In one green-gloved hand, a man wearing goggles holds a paint brush dripping with bright white paint. His other hand holds a plastic container of the white paint under the brush to catch the drops.
Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, has created the whitest paint on record with his students.John Underwood/Purdue University

Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, didn’t set out to make it into the Guinness World Records when he began trying to make a new type of paint. He had a loftier goal: to cool down buildings without torching the Earth.

In 2020, Dr. Ruan and his team unveiled their creation: a type of white paint that can act as a reflector, bouncing 95 percent of the sun’s rays away from the Earth’s surface, up through the atmosphere and into deep space. A few months later, they announced an even more potent formulation that increased sunlight reflection to 98 percent.“

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