The U.S. and U.K. are experiencing heatwaves, breaking records across the board. The U.K this week has experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded. Climate Scientists estimate these burning temperatures are made ten times more likely due to climate change, reaching up to a predicted 42C (highest recorded temperature in the U.K. was 38.7C in 2019). The IPCC report shows we are living in the hottest period in the last 125,000 years, with carbon dioxide levels the highest they have been for 2 million years - thanks to our continued burning of fossil fuels and disregard for natural carbon dioxide cleaners like the Amazon rainforest.
The official day for summer in the Northern Hemisphere was the 21st of June, but across parts of America, heatwaves were already beginning to cause severe problems at the start of Summer. The southwestern region of Kansas experienced its own microclimate, in which the heat and humidity dramatically increased, with the usual cooling winds dropping absent. The excessive lack of moisture led to the death of 2,000 cows, while in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 10,000 tourists were evacuated due to unsafe levels of rainfall.
The reason that these extreme heat events are so dangerous is to do with the way animal bodies operate. In humans, excess heat causes us to sweat in order to cool the body down, relying on large storage of the body’s water. We can’t drink enough water to recover fast enough, as the body needs to be able to process the ingested liquid. The other recourse is relying on air —but humid air is full of water the body can’t absorb, preventing our sweat from evaporating to cool us down, heating our skin further on contact.
Cows, and other animals, have fewer sweat glands than we do, so they have a harder time cooling down, relying on panting to do so. Cows are also genetically bred as terrific dissipaters of heat, which they can store in their body for later use. However, too much heat also puts this biological system at risk, overheating the herd animal to fatal levels.
These extreme weather events are linked to the increased moisture levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, which leads to more heat spells and weather downpours. Because of carbon dioxide trapping the sun’s heat, there has been a greater level of evaporation, leading to, along with other contributors, excessive atmospheric moisture.
As the warming continues, more weather extremes, rain and sun, are expected. All of this will increase danger levels for the animals of planet Earth.
Sources: BBC News, IPCC, Yahoo! News, NBC News, Pet Keen
About the author - meet Earthan James McCulloch
James is a literary student and environmental enthusiast who likes thinking about the better futures we could have (and those we best avoid). When not playing with other people’s dogs or taking long, mindful walks, he’s usually found reading and writing, often at the local library. You can check him out on his blog for something a little different, where he talks about all things literary or otherwise.