Anyone who has survived the past few months deserves a medal for getting through the hottest summer in recorded history. If you had placed one of those medals on the streets of New Delhi during these past steamy months, it might have melted away – that’s how unbelievably hot this year has been. Hit the jump for a quick look at what this sweltering season has meant for the environment as a sign of things to come.
North America faced some of the most devastating consequences of rising temperatures. By July 1st, over 297 fires were raging across the Alaskan landscape. Hundreds more burned in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Washington state’s Olympic National Forest was also engulfed in what is reported as the largest fire in the park’s history, with the eerily named Paradise Fire taking 1,200 acres of greenery. Dry ground conditions from a moderate winter and low precipitation in the spring created the perfect recipe for disaster.
Soaring temperatures, indicative of Earth’s increasingly compromised climate, hit new records this year, with June being the hottest in the month’s recorded history. These temperatures didn’t quit as California battled its long-winded drought – the worst the state has seen in 500 years – and toxic algal blooms on the west coast forced fisheries to cloe. These blooms, also present in Lake Erie and the Baltic Sea, create dead zones by using up all oxygen available to other sea creatures and plants. The city of Bandar Mahshahr in Iran also suffered a heat index of 165 degrees Fahrenheit – the second hottest temperature on record, ever.
We seem to be in a dangerous downward spiral given that fire seasons are estimated to now last 18.7 percent longer than decades ago and sea levels are projected to rise three feet within the next 100 years. Experts are concluding that we are entering a mass extinction event, in its early stages, which just sounds terrifying. But, in light of the terror, there has also been some real progress toward better climate change regulation this year, such as President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and China investing in more green energy.
One thing is clear: we better get our act together soon.