Earth’s 2019 Record Surface Temperatures, East Africa Desert Locust Outbreak 2020, Record Annual Global Ocean Heat Content (2015-2019), Selected Global Significant Climate Anomalies & Events: January 2020, US 2019 Billion-Dollar Weather & Climate Disasters (NOAA)
Last week, a high pressure system over the overheated Pacific Ocean brought summer temperatures to Los Angeles of over 80℉ (26.6℃), reaching its peak of 88℉ (64℃) on Friday, February 28. Experts have observed that violent crime increases with hotter temperatures. Had the heat inflamed the man who entered our parking structure at 12:17 a.m. that Friday morning? Our surveillance cameras show him heading straight for a vehicle, dosing it with gasoline from front to back, and then setting it ablaze.
We were lucky. The winds blew the flames away from our apartment complex and onto the neighboring building, causing smoke and fire-hose water damage to two apartments. With concrete walls separating each four-vehicular unit, the fire did not spread throughout our parking structure. While only four of our neighbors lost their vehicles, the event left us all unsettled and vulnerable.
Meanwhile, further north, an extreme low pressure system over the Arctic has brought a warmer winter across much of Russia and parts of Scandinavia and eastern Canada. In Moscow, heavy snowfall arrived mid-January, two to three months later than usual. Beginning in December 2019, rising temperatures have broken the record, reaching 44℉ (6.6℃) last week. The spring-like weather in February, the snowiest time of the year with nose-biting cold below 5℉, have left many people in Moscow amazed. Ice skating enthusiasts are disappointed with Gorky Park’s melting ice rink.
Summertime at the south pole has also heated up. On February 6, 2020, Antarctica was around the same temperature as Los Angeles. At 64.9℉ (18.3℃), Antarctica experienced its hottest temperature on record. Persisting until February 13, the warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers.
Independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate that Earth’s surface temperatures in 2019 were the second warmest since record-keeping began in 1880. The past five years have been the warmest. We hit another record this January, making it the warmest January over the 141-year span of climate records.
Map of Selected Significant Climate Anomalies and Events: January 2020
Source: NOAA Global Climate Report January 2020
Earth’s oceans struggle to keep up with absorbing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we humans continue to pump daily into the atmosphere. Based on data from America’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and China’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics, ocean temperatures in 2019 were the warmest in the 65-year oceanic record. The last five years (2015-2019) beat the record for annual ocean heat content (OHC). OHC describes the amount of heat stored in the ocean, from the surface to 1.24 miles (2000 meters) in depth.
While more intense and expansive wildfires have impacted our lives in Australia, Brazil, California, and elsewhere, a Desert Locust outbreak is now threatening rural food security and livelihoods across East Africa. Since October 2019, unusual weather and climate conditions, including widespread and heavy rains, have favored the breeding grounds of the Desert Locust. Swarms are now on a feeding and breeding frenzy in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Since only the economy matters to the global capitalist elite class, fueling the overheating of our planet, let’s look at the cost of our climate crisis in the United States. Since 1980, the United States has faced 258 weather and climate disasters. The total cost of these 258 events exceeds $1.75 trillion. In 2019 alone, fourteen weather and climate disaster events across the United States incurred losses of over $1 billion for each event. These one-billion-plus events included three floods, eight severe storms, two hurricanes, and one wildfire. The areas affected are still struggling to recover from the economic impact.
Map of U.S. 2019 Billion-Dollar Weather & Climate Disasters
Source: National Centers for Environmental Information/NOAA
Based on the lack of action on addressing our climate emergency, it appears that our economy would have to collapse before we the people could wrest control of our lives from the hands of the locust-hungry, minority elite. As the arsonist reminded me and my neighbors, our lives are fragile. Outcomes are uncertain.