Magnum, Oklahoma, saw temperatures close to 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) last week. This would be nothing exceptional in the tropics on a summer day, but this spike occurred in the Northern Hemisphere in the dead of winter. In fact, this weather was so extreme it broke a daily record in the state, which had an average February high of 13 degrees Celsius (56 degrees Fahrenheit) prior to this phenomenon.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued an emergency burn ban due to the sweltering heat, but a grass fire that caused some residents to evacuate their homes still broke out. Temperatures have since returned to the normal range for the region.
Fire hazards aside, most would normally welcome a rare warm February. However, it should be noted that such extreme shifts in temperature are very unusual during the winter, and they tangibly illustrate the effects of climate change on our environment. Warm temperatures during traditionally cold months are enough to disrupt and destabilize the natural ecosystem. The balmy weather may prompt trees and flowers to bloom, only to suffer frost damage when the temperatures return to normal. That may seem like a very minor thing, but it can have a ripple effect on the industries that are dictated by the seasons, such as agriculture.
These record-breaking temperatures are invariably associated with humanity’s influence on the environment. Carbon emissions caused by our dependence on fossil fuels are trapping heat inside the planet’s atmosphere, resulting in very erratic temperatures.
As much as climate change deniers would like to classify this weather anomaly as an isolated event, similar extreme weather shifts are happening in various parts of the world, providing overwhelming evidence of climate change: Australia is still recovering from a major heatwave during which temperatures reach 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit); temperatures in the Arctic exceeded the average three times in the last few months; and the North Pole’s temperature has risen to 20 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) above its normal average.
Fortunately, it looks like public opinion is changing as a new study just reported that a majority of adults in the UK now recognize the reality of man-made climate change. “Over just three years, there has been a discernible shift in public opinion towards acceptance that climate change is both happening and mainly caused by human activity,” according Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, the organization behind the study. “Seven in ten now believe that almost all, or a majority, of climate scientists believe the same.”
Hopefully, governments and policy makers will follow suit. Their support for renewables, electric vehicles (EVs), environmental regulations, and similar initiatives that address climate change is critical to making sure that we protect the planet and work to reverse the damage we have already done.