What Is Causing The Global Heatwave, And How Long Will It Last?

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Millions across Europe and the United States are battling a severe heat wave, and the temperatures are forecast to go even higher.

In the US, the heatwave which stretches from Texas to California is expected to peak and the US National Weather Service has warned of an “extremely hot and dangerous weekend”.

In Europe, countries in the southern parts are already enduring forest fires and heavy thunderstorms, and are expected to see their thermometers soar past 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days. Italy was among the hardest hit by last year’s warm weather, reporting about 18,000 heat-related deaths, more than any other European nation.

A remote township in China’s arid northwest endured temperatures of more than 52 Celsius on Sunday, setting a record for a country that was battling minus 50 degrees weather just six months ago. The record heat in the country is expected to persist at least another five days.

In Japan, authorities issued heatstroke alerts to tens of millions of people in 20 of its 47 prefectures as near-record high temperatures scorched large areas and torrential rain pummelled other regions. Some places experienced their highest temperatures in more than four decades Sunday, including Hirono town in Fukushima prefecture with 37.3 degrees Celsius.

Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather across the Northern Hemisphere, underlining the increasing urgency to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Last month was the hottest June on record.

What is causing the Heatwave

Experts say that the temperatures have been sent soaring by an anti-cyclone named Cerberus, named after the three-headed monster-dog that guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology.

An anticyclone – or high-pressure system – is a meteorological phenomenon in which sinking air from the upper atmosphere brings about a period of dry and settled weather with limited cloud formation and little wind.

What next

Italy faces weekend predictions of historic highs with the health ministry issuing a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna, and Florence.

Spain is also expected to bake with temperatures forecast to rise to 41C, according to national forecasting agency Aemet. An “extreme risk” alert has been issued for the Andalusia region in the south.

In the US, temperatures in some parts have already touched 48 degrees Celsius and authorities have advised people to avoid outdoor activities.

California’s Death Valley, often among the hottest places on Earth, is also likely to register new peaks on Sunday, with the mercury possibly surpassing 54 degrees Celsius.

A cluster of severe thunderstorms also pounded the US Northeast including New York City on Sunday, unleashing deadly flooding in Pennsylvania, halting operations at several airports, and prompting tornado watches across New England.

How long will it last

The Cerberus heatwave will come to an end once the anti-cyclone weakens or breaks down, which is expected to happen after two weeks, according to the Italian Meteorological Society.

Experts say the heat waves are linked to global warming and could get more severe if governments worldwide don’t take swift and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

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