The Theme of Summer Heat Predictions is ‘Above Average’

Climate Heat Waves
The Theme of Summer Heat Predictions is ‘Above Average’

Welcome to the coldest, least weird summer of the rest of your life.

This is not, of course, technically correct. There will always be year-by-year variation even as the climate continues to warm, and there’s always a chance that, say, last year’s northern hemisphere summer, the hottest in 2,000 years, will top this year’s version. But in terms of trends, it’s true: the numbers are just going to keep going up.

And this particular year does seem to be shaping up to be potentially worse than anything humans have ever experienced. In the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest three-month outlook suggests most of the country is headed for “above normal” temperatures; New Mexico and Arizona have particularly high odds of unusual heat, as does New England. If you live in North or South Dakota, congrats: you’re in the only part of the lower 48 with an equal chance of above- or below-average summer temperatures. You’ll need to head out to far western Alaska to find the only part of the country with a decent chance of seeing temps below normal.

The same sorts of predictions have come in from around the world. Japan’s Meterological Agency has predicted “hotter than usual” temperatures across the country. After Japan set disturbing temperature records in February, the country has been bracing for the hottest year in its history. In Europe, 2023 saw some intense heat waves, but across the continent the average temperature made it only the fifth-warmest summer on record; this year will be hotter, likely measuring up to 2022’s record-setting summer, according to the research firm Atmospheric G2.

China, which also suffered through some of the worst heat waves on record last year and saw its all-time highest temperature ever recorded (126 degrees Fahrenheit), is expecting a worse summer this year as well. The India Meteorological Department has warned of an unusually high number of heat wave days — defined as days above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F) in low-lying areas or 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) in the mountains — from April to June, the hottest part of the year across the subcontinent. And they’re already being proven right: northern India is currently sweltering, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees in many areas and predictions that the wave will continue through the middle of the week.

Not all “above average” predictions are necessarily bad, though. Staying in India, officials have projected an above-normal 2024 monsoon season. Though flooding can always cause problems, that’s actually good news for a parched country, where half the farmland is fed exclusively by the June to September rainy season. The Atlantic hurricane season, about to officially begin on June 1, is also expected to be above normal, with as many as 25 named storms in the cards — that one is harder to put a rosy shine on.

So in general, the globe can expect a very hot, very wet, very uncomfortable summer ahead.

Let’s end on an outlier: the wildfire season in the U.S. has already had a slow start (with the huge February Texas fires as a devastating exception), and officials expect that to continue for the coming months. The wet winter has kept the total amount of burnable material low, at least for now; but if the West sees as hot and dry a summer is expected, by the time Labor Day rolls around wildfires might jump on the above-average bandwagon.

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