Planet Earth has broken consecutive temperature records in the last three months. July was the hottest month in history, with a global average of 16.95°C. Then came August, which took second place on the podium, with 16.82°C.
Furthermore, ocean temperatures also reached a record temperature in August (20.98°C), while the Antarctic ice sheet reached an extent 12% below average, by far the lowest mark for August since observations via satellite technology began in the late 1970s.
The data above, released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the branch of the United Nations (UN) for climate and water-related issues, add to another observation: to date, the year 2023 is the second hottest in the world. history, second only to 2016, when there was a particularly acute El Niño phenomenon, which contributed to raising global temperatures.
When these statistics came to light last week, a cyclone was already causing damage in the southern region of Brazil. Another cyclone hit Europe, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and caused catastrophic flooding in Libya, where a large part of a coastal city was devastated and the number of victims, still uncertain, is counted in the thousands.
“These events have to do with global warming, which is causing extreme phenomena across the planet”, says scientist Carlos Nobre, a specialist in climate issues.
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Cyclones are centers of low atmospheric pressure formed by the contrast between masses of hot and cold air, which suck in moisture and throw it into the atmosphere. The moisture turns into clouds, a process that spreads rain and wind.
In the case of Libya, where the sea waters are warm, the evaporation process was accelerated, which generated a very large volume of rain on the Mediterranean coast, explains Nobre. He considers, however, that the consequences would not be so devastating if two dams had not failed. “When this happens, river levels rise so quickly that there is no time to respond.”
In southern Brazil, where more storms are expected this Thursday (14), extratropical cyclones – formed outside the tropics – are common in winter. “There have been five events in Rio Grande do Sul in the last four months”, recalls the scientist. However, the latter was stronger than average for two reasons: a rapid acceleration of El Niño, which induces stronger cold fronts and cyclones, and the fact that the Atlantic Ocean is warmer off the coast of Rio Grande do Sul. “When the extratropical cyclone arrives in this region, evaporates more water and this water rises, causing more intense rains.”
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Shortly after the floods in Libya, scientist Suzanne Gray, from the meteorology department at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, explained that global warming has caused these storms to occur less frequently, but with greater force. In other words, a greater volume of rain concentrated in fewer storms.
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“This concentration is due to global warming, which greatly increases the evaporation of oceans and rivers, so the trigger for rain is the amount of water vapor, which generates clouds that cause storms, known as cumulonimbus”, explains Carlos Nobre , which considers it “very difficult” to reverse this increase in tragedies because greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and are expected to break the 2022 record this year.
In addition to environmental disasters, such as forest fires, which release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, he thinks that the main reason for the rate of emissions not falling is the fact that investment in fossil fuels is “much greater” than used in the conversion of renewable energy. “Today, solar and wind energy are already cheaper than fossil energy, so (a more intense investment in these energy sources) would also be good for the planet’s economy. But the speed is slow.”
Editing: Thalita Pires