March temperature records smashed all over North America: is it global warming?
I live in Ottawa where we have experienced an unprecedented heat wave this week. In fact, nine daily maximum temperature records have been broken over the past 12 days. And six of those records were broken consecutively. Keep in mind that these records weren’t just broken, they were smashed.
According to the Pinhey’s Point weather station, which has collected data since 1889, on Tuesday the temperature hit 25.5 C, obliterating the previous record of 14.7 C set in 1995. On Wednesday it was 27.4 C, which was the warmest March day in the history of Ottawa.
Just how unlikely is all this? According to David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, “It’s like snowing in July. It just doesn’t happen.” So what on Earth is going on? Is this just a weird weather anomaly or does it fit the larger trend of a changing climate?
Naturally, people in Ottawa love this early gift of summer and local media are happily playing along with the celebrations. No one seems to be asking the really important question about this bizarre weather: Why is it happening and is this connected to climate change?
Now I know it’s all unexpected and wonderful and who would complain about warm weather at a time of year when snow is not at all unusual and temperatures are typically in the single digits? But I’m going to be a bit of a killjoy here by pointing out that this weather is part of a completely unprecedented March heat wave across North America — 2,000 records fell just last week (2000!) as cities like Chicago broke records dating back to the 19th century.
This all comes on the tail of a year when the US set a new record for multi-billion dollar weather disasters. And just this week new climate studies revealed that the world is warming even more than previously thought. This week we celebrated World Water Day. A rapidly increasing global population is already putting a massive strain on the world’s water supplies in some parts of the world and it is widely anticipated that climate change is only going to exacerbate these problems. So, if there was ever a moment for talking about global warming, this would be it.
But are we talking? We’re certainly reveling in the wonderful weather but doesn’t this all feel like something’s just not quite right here? I wonder at what point does all the anecdotal evidence trigger some kind of shift in public consciousness. Or do we all just go on blissfully enjoying the sunny skies and warm days without giving it a second thought? Don’t get me wrong – I love wearing my shorts in mid-March too, but you have to wonder what other bizarre (and dangerous) weather we may be in for in the future as climate change really starts to kick in in the coming years. It’s sure nice now but it may not be so benign next time.