With summer around the corner, as we reach the middle of June, temperatures have already reached as high as 30 degrees Celsius. During my study-break walks and trips to cafés around the lovely city of Maastricht, I noticed how people flocked under the shade of restaurant and bar patios, seeking refuge from the heat in the cool shade of the umbrellas. As they sipped on ice-filled drinks, I reflected on the events of the past week and the alarming news filling my page about the changes in our climate.
The beginning of the week brought us news of our Arctic ice or lack thereof. The IPCC had initially promised that summer ice in the Arctic would not disappear, should global temperature rises be limited to a 2-degree increase. However, recent research finds that we may face an ice-free summer as soon as the 2030s, this being a decade earlier than previously anticipated by an IPCC report in 2021. Unfortunately, 90 percent of this melted ice results from human activity. Professor Dirk Notz at the University of Hamburg says “people didn’t listen to our warnings”, stating that these concerns for the Arctic have been voiced for decades. While Indigenous groups and wildlife are heavily impacted by this change, as they depend on the sea’s ice, a few-to-no ice Arctic also induces a cycle of even more heating. An absence of ice exposes the dark ocean to the sun, causing it to absorb even more heat, leading to ice caps melting even quicker, which ultimately emits more greenhouse gases and raises the sea level.
Following this unfortunate news, wildfires in Canada blew intense smoke southward, affecting several US States such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Last Wednesday, as a result of the fires (418 of which were still active that morning), New York City fell into a murky haze. The sky, interestingly, was an orange hue as smoke hinders colours with short wavelengths (such as green, yellow, and blue) from passing, leaving longer-wavelength colours like red and orange. Within hours, New York briefly became the most polluted city around the globe. All outdoor activities were cancelled, and warnings were issued for residents to remain within their homes “to the greatest extent possible” by the Mayor of New York, Eric Adams. While the city is now no longer the most polluted, having been surpassed by Delhi in India, it has only just hit a “moderate air quality” as of this past Saturday.
Lastly, there is a 90 percent possibility that in the second half of 2023, El Niño may emerge: a 0.5-degree Celsius increase (above what is considered the long-term average) in the Pacific Sea temperature, resulting in warmer temperatures globally. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this climate event typically occurs every 3 to 5 years. However, the climate impact of this event may be felt up to several years after its occurrence, despite its slow, gradual impact on natural wind and ocean current patterns. El Niño also triggers uncommon weather and potential natural disasters, such as unusually dry conditions or floods. However, due to the already-present impacts of climate change, these changes are anticipated to occur on a larger scale.
While these past events are understandably grim, I still find myself hesitating to finish this Sunday Summary on a positive note. Why not let these events have their impact, and grant them the space to sink in?