Summers in New Orleans can all but suffocate the uninitiated. The heat and humidity in August make a five block walk feel like a five mile run in normal conditions. The last time I experienced it for any length of time was in 1985, when I rode the streetcar to and from downtown for a summer job as an accounting clerk. After a couple of days of showing up drenched in my suit and tie, I began tucking my office clothes in a backpack and wearing shorts for the commute.
I’ve lived in northern New England for the better part of 30 years. And while I’ve experienced some fairly warm stretches, I can’t imagine how this region would respond to 90+ degree weather and 90+ percent humidity for two to three months straight.
Unfortunately, the long term forecast isn’t great … not with the mounting string of historical global temperature records we’re setting.
Once again, we’ve set a high mark for the warmest collective year on record. NOAA announced last week that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history, dating back to 1880. Worse, it topped 2014 as the hottest year by the highest margin of increase, with a succession of several months topping 2014 records, again by higher margins than ever.
Scientists suggest this indicates that global warming is on a steady uphill climb, and that the biggest culprit is manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the report: “During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 136 years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C) and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century.” The report also said the “globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.33°F (0.74°C) above the 20th century average, which beat last year’s record by 0.20°F (0.11°C).
Warming oceans can wreak havoc on natural ecosystems. Persistent temperature increases have already shifted many patterns in the Gulf of Maine, such as: lobster migrations moving farther north and downeast; cod population decreases; invasive species increases such as green crab, black sea bass and a host of nasty tunicates.
Scientists will keep sounding the alarm. Hopefully we’ll respond in time to minimize the lasting damage. The Paris accord signed last month is a good start. I hope the momentum from that landmark global agreement continues.