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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Deadly Summer of 2015

As temperatures reached up to 49C in Karachi, Pakistan in June, reports circulated that local morgues were running out of space to accommodate the bodies of the dead. "They are piling bodies one on top of the other", Dr. Seemin Jamali a senior official at the city's largest government hospital said at the time. More than two thousand people died that month in Pakistan, most in Karachi. An even deadlier heat wave -- the fifth-deadliest ever -- swept through India in May, claiming more than 2,500 lives and melting asphalt roads. More than one hundred people died from the heat in August in Egypt, while at least 90 deaths were reported in Japan.
Nick Faris/Catherine McIntyre, National Post

This has been a hot summer. Summers do tend to be hot. Particularly around the equator. But this summer was deemed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration to be one for the history books as the warmest year in recorded history. May, June and July among the five months qualifying as extraordinarily hot, were the warmest ever experienced, while July is considered to have been the hottest month ever across the land and ocean surfaces of the Globe.
  • Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: 47.7C June 30, previous record set in 1891.
  • Walla Walla, Lacrosse and Chief Joseph Dam, Washington: Three towns reached 45C in June, breaking the all-time high of 43.9C in Washington set in July 2006.
  • Urumita Colombia: 42.2C the hottest day ever in Colombia on July 1, besting the 42C record set on June 27.
  • Kitzingen, Germany: 40.3C July 5, hottest day ever in July for Germany, breaking previous record of 40.2C set in 2003 and 1983.
  • Madrid, Spain: 39.9C on July 6, as opposed to 39.5C reached July 1995.
People, desperate to find relief from the stifling heat and humidity have tried remedies both new and old. Wherever water was to be found, people doused themselves. Young and old stayed in the shade and hurried to pools, lakes and rivers. When water shortages loomed in villages across India in May volunteers handed out pouches of buttermilk and raw onions representing an Ayurvedic Hindu medicine practise to hydrate the body.

Pakistani men rest under a bridge during a heat wave in Karachi, on June 29, 2015, Rizwan Tabbasum, AFP/
Getty Images

In Turkey at least a hundred people were reported drowned, attempting to find some relief from the oppressive heat, during a late-July, early-August heat wave. In India, the deadly heat wave destroyed over 17-million chickens leading to a steep rise in poultry prices. In Thailand, severe drought hit the world's biggest rice exporter damaging 80 percent of the country's rice farms, resulting in a 20 percent drop in yield.

Brazil is anticipating its smallest coffee crop since 2009; ten percent lower than the year before, related to two months of record-low rainfalls in the southeast where over 90 percent of Brazilian coffee beans are grown. Tanzanian farmers are uprooting their coffee trees to replace them with hardier vegetables like cabbage and onions. California's agricultural stability was hard hit by persistent hot, dry weather causing it to write off over 500,000 acres of crops.

Climate change is believed to be playing a role in the kind of extreme weather patterns seen around the world, but environmental scientists are also pointing to a brutal El Nino this year, held by many to be the real cause of the 2015 summer year of extreme heat conditions. When dwindling trade winds disrupt the flow of warm water from close to the equator to cooler parts of the ocean, the El Nino climate phenomenon kicks in

A pool of heated water is created in the Pacific, some hundred metres deep and with a wide circumference. That heated water rises into the atmosphere, in the process creating greater extremes of chaotic weather in counties closest to the equator.

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