Heat waves shatter records on two continents

Two extraordinary heat waves sent temperatures soaring into uncharted territory in Europe and the U.S. prior to the summer solstice, setting new benchmarks for the month of June in several European countries, Andrew writes.

Why it matters: Meteorologists call the early season extreme heat “unsettling” and “unprecedented.” These events are a clear warning sign of global warming’s growing influence on the weather.

  • Heat waves are deceptively deadly, with heat illnesses striking vulnerable groups including the homeless, the elderly, and those who cannot afford air conditioning.

The big picture: The two continental heat waves are connected via a pattern of atmospheric waves, or contortions, in the jet stream. This is a river of fast-flowing air at high altitudes that flows from west to east in the northern hemisphere.

  • In Europe, hot air built up over north Africa beginning weeks ago. This air mass eventually made its way northward into Spain.
  • Aided by a wavy jet stream and a persistent area of low pressure centered west of Portugal, the heat then surged into France and on to Central Europe.
  • Across the U.S., the jet stream is contorted like a snake, with a heat dome currently centered in the middle of the country. Temperatures across the Midwest are forecast to reach the triple-digits Tuesday.

Zoom in: Human-caused global warming is altering the background conditions in which heat waves occur, and some studies show it is also affecting the jet stream itself.

By the numbers: Temperatures reached in Europe and the U.S. would be unusual even for midsummer.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the heat has been relentless.

  • 2,074: Number of warm temperature records set or tied in the Lower 48 states during the seven-day period ending on June 17, compared to just 444 cold recordsaccording to NOAA.

Read the whole story.

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