All four continents that occupy the non-tropical Northern Hemisphere where it is now summer are experiencing record heat waves.
The weather agency in Japan has declared a heatwave sweeping the country a natural disaster. At least 44 people have died since July 9, with 11 dying on Saturday alone according to Kyodo News.
Two lingering high pressure systems have trapped warm and humid air above the region, bringing record-high temperatures for nearly two weeks.
Hospitals in Japan have admitted more than 22,000 people suffering from heat stroke, nearly half of them elderly, according to officials.
Other countries in East Asia have also experienced record temperatures. In South and North Korea temperatures have climbed to nearly 40C (104F). In South Korea, the heatwave has claimed at least 10 lives.
A massive high-pressure ridge is causing heatwaves in many parts of Northern Europe.
Some locations that may have their highest temperatures of the year this week include Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; Frankfurt, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Stockholm, Sweden.
There have been numerous wildfires in Sweden, Norway and Latvia in recent weeks and wildfires are ravaging the mainland of Greece. Out-of-control fires near Athens have forced people to flee to beaches east of the capital. A spokesman for the Greek government confirmed the rising death toll soared past 50.
In Sweden some 62,000 acres of land has already been lost to the fires or continues to burn — an area twice the size of the city of Paris.
Some areas in east Germany have not seen noteable rain since April, the worst in living history according to some farmers. The heat wave has shut down Hanover airport, damaged roads and devastated crops
In the UK the first half of summer, June 1st through July 16th, has been the driest in modern recorded history. According to the UK’s Met Office, as little as 47 millimetres of rain has fallen across the country so far this summer. The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, was prompted to issue a Level 3 amber alert in response to the “crisis”.
Ouargla, Algeria, in Northern Africa’s Sahara Desert, recorded a record high of 51.3 C (124 F) on July 5.
An unprecedented heat wave in eastern Canada killed around 70 people last week There were at least 70 heat-related deaths across the province of Quebec; CBC reported that the number of deaths overwhelmed Montreal’s morgue.
Historic heat records fell in California earlier this month. “Record and near-record high temperatures” were recorded in some areas.
The World Meteorological Organisation defines a heatwave as five or more consecutive days when the maximum daily temperatures are at least 5°C above average for that time of year.
As average temperatures around the globe continue their accelerated rise, extreme heat events like these are becoming more and more frequent.
In the past 3-4 decades, there has been an increasing trend in high-humidity heat waves, which are characterized by the persistence of extremely high night-time temperature.
Scientists believe that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events. Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
Numerous studies have documented that human-induced climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves across the globe.
Prof Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian “There’s no question human influence on climate is playing a huge role in this heatwave.”
In the Sunday Post Professor Peter Stott, Met Office science fellow in attribution, says the chances of the 2003 heatwave in Europe happening was more than doubled by climate change, and predictions by climate models that heatwaves would increase in frequency “are coming true before our eyes”.
Even warmer weather is expected in this week as a heat wave builds from Spain to Scandinavia. The heat wave is expected to continue into August with temperatures above 30oC (86oF) and that could extend the record period even further.