The southern hemisphere may have reached the highest recorded temperature in its history yesterday. A station in Onslow, a small seaside town in western Australia, recorded a suffocating temperature of 50.7 degree in the midst of a strong heat wave that affects several southern countries, such as Argentina.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has begun a meticulous review of the temperature reading. If verified, it would tie the all-time highest record set in Oodnadatta, Australia, on January 2, 1960.
A huge heat dome was stationed over Western Australia, with Onslow just below. Temperatures were about 11 degrees above normal in the hottest time of year.
“Considering the trends of increasing temperature in recent decades, it is less surprising that we see extreme temperatures like Western Australia at this time,” wrote Nina Ridder, a researcher at the Center of Excellence for Extreme Weather at the University of New Sydney South Wales.
Western Australia is currently coming off its third warmest December in 2021. Ridder said average sea surface temperatures in northwest Western Australia have also been above average – about 2 degrees higher in December 2021- and they could have had harmful effects on marine ecosystems, how to induce coral bleaching.
The extreme temperature comes the same week that several of the world’s leading climate research institutions announced that the last seven years have been the hottest of recorded history. In that time, temperature records have been broken around the world. WMO has four ongoing investigations and has just completed another.
“Since the creation of the WMO World Weather and Climate Extremes Archive in 2007, we have never had as many checks / evaluations in progress as we currently have”Randy Cerveny, who heads the World Meteorological Organization’s weather and weather extremes team, wrote in an email.
Here is a select list of verified and unverified national and international record temperatures (in recorded history) in the past two years:
According to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, in total, 10 different countries tied or broke national heat records in 2021 (Morocco, Taiwan, Tunisia and Dominica, in addition to those mentioned above).
Those ends are only scratching the surface. Outside of national or international records, unprecedented extremes are occurring in local communities and also on smaller timescales. Cerveny said that local high temperatures are “exceeded much more frequently than low temperature records.”
Herrera documented 400 weather stations in communities or outposts around the world that established all-time highs in 2021.
“We are seeing more frequent extreme temperatures,” Cerveny wrote. “The climate that we have lived in the last decades is changing and we must be aware of that, and realize that these fundamental changes have consequences in our way of life.”
By Kasha Patel