Record heat fires up climate debate

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As Norway braced for another day of record-breaking heat on Friday, new debate was sizzling over whether this summer’s hot and dry weather offers more evidence of climate change. Temperatures in some areas of Norway were expected to soar to as high as 35C (around 95F) heading into the weekend.

Here’s how state meteorologists presented Norway’s weather map on Friday. It was also unusually hot in neighboring Sweden, Finland and all along the North- and Baltic seas. ILLUSTRATION: Meteorologene on Twitter/yr.no

State meteorologists posted their map with temperature forecasts for Southern Norway, where it’s hottest, on social media. They predicted the country would record its warmest day of the year, after a spring and summer that’s already broken many old records for both heat and lack of precipitation.

“All counties in Southern Norway can see thermometers over 30 degrees (centigrade) on Friday,” state meteorologist Eldbjørg Moxnes told state broadcaster NRK’s weather site yr.no. “It will be dry over all of mainland Norway,” she added, and old records looked likely to be broken,. That may even include the 35.6C set in Nesbyen on June 20, 1970 and the 35.2C set at Oslo’s old airport at Fornebu on May 27, 1968. Oslo’s record high of 35 set back in 1901 may also be crushed, even though the official forecast for the Norwegian capital called for “only” 34C.

The community of Nedre Egedal in Sigdal, Buskerud County, already set this year’s highest temperature in Norway on June 26, with 33.8C. Now Moxnes and her colleagues that will “probably” be broken somewhere or maybe even several places around the country.

‘Extremes more visible’
This week’s lastest rash of hot, dry days, which have been creating a crisis for farmers and setting off fire alarms, prompted state meteorologist Bente Wahl to claim this week that this summer’s heat wave provides more evidence of global warming. Wahl also stirred debate four years ago, when she predicted many more warmer and stormy summers with lots of rain in 2014, and published a video of a mock weather report in 2050. She warned that “if we don’t do anything about global warming, we’ll have more extreme weather that will be a challenge.”

She hasn’t changed her mind, and doesn’t think this year’s drought in Southern Norway makes any big difference. The warmth itself is extreme, and she told state broadcaster NRK that “we must not forget that Tromsø set precipitation records in June.” While Southern Norway baked in the dry heat, Northern Norway was hit by low temperatures, lots of rain and even snow.

“These extremes become more visible with climate change,” Wahl said. “When we have heat waves, every top temperature will raise the highs in each wave, and it will be warmer and warmer every year if we keep emitting carbon gases.”

‘Seeing the reality’ of climate change
Climate researcher Rasmus Benestad at the state Meteorological Institute agreed, telling NRK that “we’re now in a climate shift. We see climate change by seeing how often we set new record years. We’re having a lot of them now.”

Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s government minister in charge of climate and environmental issues, also agreed. “This summer, with temperature records both here at home and abroad, we’re seeing the reality of global warming,” Elvestuen told NRK. He said Norwegians need to prepare for more extreme weather, impose stronger measures to stop global warming and carry them out faster.

Marianne Tronstad Lund, a climate researcher at Norway’s Cicero foundation, doesn’t agree, however, that a single summer or winter can be directly tied to climate change. She doesn’t think this year’s hot summer, viewed as an isolated event, proves climate change.

“But we have evidence of global warming and that average temperatures are rising,” Lund told NRK on Friday. “That’s part of strengthening the extremes.”

Climate change needs a 30-year perspective
She noted that both temperatures and precipitation have increased globally. “We’re seeing that dry areas are getting drier and wet areas wetter,” said Lund. Actual climate change, though, can only be viewed by evaluating average temperatures and weather over a 30-year period.

“Heat waves are natural and we’ve had warm summers (in Norway) earlier, but we’re seeing that the temperatures are becoming higher,” responded Benestad. “The number of days with temperatures over 20C has increased markedly.”

Lund clarified that Norway will see bigger differences and swings in the years ahead. “What’s unusual this year is that we have had three stable weather situations over time,” she told NRK. “There was the cold winter, the warm spring and now the hot summer.”

Some rain finally fell along the West Coast earlier this week and more was in the weekend forecast for southern Norway. Relatively heavy rain was predicted from Saturday night and through Sunday, also in and around Oslo, with cooler temperatures next week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund