Heatwaves, Droughts: What's Causing Them?

Jul 15, 2019 By Samanvitha P, Writer
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At first glance, it might seem like the heatwave in Europe and the horrible drought in India have nothing to do with each other. But on a closer look, it turns out they are connected, by none other than Climate Change. 

Europe and Southeast Asia have been hit by massive heatwaves, with India and neighboring countries experiencing the hottest and longest heatwaves on record this year. With limited rainfall this year and the year before, India simply does not have enough reliable access to water.  

Meanwhile, in Europe, only 5% of all houses have air conditioning compared to 90% in the US. And with the heat wave blanketing these countries, people felt trapped in concrete buildings. Schools postponed exams and closed down to avoid the scorching heat. The worst part? This may be the new normal. 

A Changing Jet Stream

The reason behind weather changes like these is an atmospheric phenomenon called a jet stream. A jet stream is a thin, fast-moving air current found in parts of the atmosphere. Jet streams are long and windy, sometimes covering half a hemisphere. They can affect the weather in both good and bad ways.

Seasonal variations are normal, however, since the planet has been warming up, these jet streams have moved more slowly, and become more deadly. The cool air that moved them from area to area is disappearing. They stall over an area for days creating pressure systems by which hot air descends and dries out resulting in heatwaves in some parts while delivering thunderstorms, water surges, and hail in other parts.

In the last 34 years, the number of heatwaves that have occurred has doubled. Scientists estimate that by 2050, that number will grow again with the intensity increasing too.

Effects Of Heat Waves

Heat waves are dangerous and can lead to exhaustion or heat strokes. In older people or the more sickly, it could cause organ failure.

On Wednesday, June 26th, Germany, France, Poland, and the Cezh republic had record-breaking temperatures. Officials advised people to stay in colder areas and limit elders and children from going outside. Schools in France closed down and postponed exams for the first time. Portable air conditioners and fans flew off shelves while cities installed mist showers and opened cool rooms in public buildings. 

With highs of 123 degrees (50.5 Celsius), India has been literally baking in the sun, and with limited water, the problem becomes a whole lot worse. Water trucks have been providing supplies to the public, but these trucks are privately owned and very expensive. In major metropolitan cities across the nation, reservoirs have run dry. As a result, hospitals are closing down due to the water shortage while others started charging customers for water usage. 

We can prevent these events from happening more often by limiting our carbon footprint. Walking, biking, and taking public transportation is a start as it reduces the amounts of greenhouse gases released.  As Bill Nye, the Science guy says, “we may be the cause for climate change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be the solution!”

Sources: NYTimes, National Geographic, Vox, Accuweather, Bloomberg, NBCNews