Climate change amplified recent heatwaves in Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico



Scientists have determined that the unprecedented heatwave scorching parts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico was made at least five times more likely due to human-caused climate change. This extreme “heat dome” event is the latest in a series of blistering heat waves that have affected various regions worldwide.

Over the past three weeks, a persistent high-pressure system has settled over Mexico and a large portion of the southern United States, driving the heat index (a measure of temperature and humidity) to above 48°C (120°F) in some areas.

Excessive heat warnings have been issued for over 40 million people in the US, including residents of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas. Concerns have risen regarding the health of vulnerable individuals and the strain on Texas’s energy grid due to increased air conditioner usage.

A recent analysis by Climate Central, a climate science non-profit, revealed that the burning of fossil fuels, which heats the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, made this extreme heatwave at least five times more likely.
Andrew Pershing, Vice President for Science at Climate Central, emphasized that the punishing heat is creating distressing conditions for millions of people and is projected to persist throughout the week in Texas.

According to Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, the campus at College Station has experienced a series of days surpassing 37°C (100°F), a temperature range typically not seen until August.

Dessler expressed his dismay, stating, “It’s depressing to think we’re not even in July, and we are getting this sort of heat.” He further described the oppressive conditions, noting that extreme heat makes individuals reliant on air conditioning and essentially prisoners in their own homes.

Dessler predicts that the southern part of Texas will likely experience one of its hottest Junes on record due to the heat dome centered in Mexico. In fact, the Mexican cities of Monclova and Chihuahua have already recorded all-time high temperatures of 46°C (115°F) and 41°C (107°F), respectively.

This exceptionally strong heat dome is formed by a high-pressure atmospheric system that traps and intensifies heat absorbed by the landscape, creating a lid-like effect. Heat domes typically lack rainfall and clouds, allowing unhindered sunlight to bake the surface and drive temperatures to extreme levels.

While heat domes have occurred in Texas and other areas in the past, scientists debate whether climate change is contributing to more frequent “blocking events” where high-pressure systems remain stationary due to alterations in the jet stream, which usually moves weather systems from west to east.

Michael Wehner, a climate and extreme weather expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, emphasized that while the occurrence of heat domes may not be entirely new, they are becoming increasingly severe.

Wehner estimated that human-caused global heating has made the Texas heatwave around 2.7°C (5°F) hotter.

In recent times, extreme heat dome events have caused elevated temperatures in various parts of the world, such as the record-breaking heat and wildfires in western Canada in May, as well as historic heatwaves experienced in locations as diverse as Puerto Rico and Siberia earlier this month.

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