Heatwaves 2022: Already in June the limit for the whole year was “exhausted”

The summer of 2022 brought warmth to Poland from the start. Along with them, there were numerous temperature records of more than 36 degrees Celsius. But the cooling and relief from the heat that followed came at a price: violent and devastating storms swept across the land. We’re talking to Dr. Hab. Bogdan Chojnicki, professor at the University of Life Sciences in Pozna and expert of the Climate Coalition.

Sebastian Medoń, SmogLab.pl: We are talking about another very hot day in June, although we are only at the beginning of the calendar summer. For starters, I’d like to ask: How does climate change affect summer temperatures? Are there more of these heat waves than until recently?

prof. dr hab. Bogdan Chojnicki, Pozna University of Life Sciences: Climate change is a fairly general description of reality, so several phenomena fit into this concept. On the one hand there is an increase in the average air temperature, on the other hand an increase in the frequency of certain extreme phenomena.

Extreme things are a bit like randomly drawing a card from the deck. If we imagine it has 24 cards, including four aces, then on average every sixth card drawn is an ace. What if we get an ace more often? Then we have the right to suspect that there are more aces in the deck than just what there should be. I’ve escaped the equation a bit, but keep in mind that the temperature issue is quite similar. Three years ago we had a temperature record, which was recorded in Radzyń in Lubuskie province. And what turned out? This year, that record was equalized. Three years later. We see an analogy with the aces mentioned here – there are more of them than we would expect.

Even if one hasn’t believed in global warming until now, seeing the record alignment in such a short time should tell that something is wrong. Looking at the long-term situation, we’ve had quite a few high temperature records in recent years. For example, January 1 this year was the warmest in the history of measurements since 1951. Looking back, however, we see no records of low temperatures. And this is a strong starting point for taking the situation seriously.

Also read: Extremely hot June. Records in Poland and outside the Arctic Circle

The heat wave in 2022 came earlier and there are more

In addition to records, there are also more and more very warm days…

Due to climate change, average temperatures are increasing, as are the number of warm days per year. Hot days, ie those when the air temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius. As you mentioned, we always associated July and August with high temperatures. Meanwhile, a new “standard” has recently come into effect, with warm days in May and June. Worse, there are more and more such days: until recently, there were an average of about four a year. If we now take the data for Pozna, for example, there were four this year. And July and August are ahead of us.

We must remember that the term climate refers to a multi-year description, where we usually refer to a period of 30 years. This is not an instantaneous situation in which we are surprised by an exceptional temperature value. Access is actually falling out of our card game more and more.

What is the conclusion?

All this of course has its consequences, such as the increasingly difficult functioning in our cities. They were built according to a very different pattern. We remember that they were collected in the name of, for example, facilitating communication or the so-called order. Today, however, in a severe heat wave, they are places where it is difficult to stay. When a person is younger, his adaptability is greater. For the elderly, the situation can be very stressful or even dangerous. This involves costs, for example in the field of care, which has to do with events such as overheating and strokes.

Concreteosis and problems with adaptation to climate change

I focused on temperatures, but let’s not forget that precipitation is also a classic parameter that describes climate. Paradoxically, in the case of Poland, the forecasts point to a slight increase in rainfall due to climate change. You might think that’s okay. The problem is that this growth is largely due to heavy rainfall. In our culture, these are treated as a problem, as something superfluous that we want to get rid of with efficient sewers.

Scrambled eggs on the market square in Krzeszowice
The heat of 2022 came earlier. A year ago, the first long heat wave appeared in July. It was then that Kacper Ropka organized a happening in Krzeszowice. As a protest against the concreting of the markets, he fried scrambled eggs on a hot plate. photo. Author’s archive

The widespread betonosis, as our cities are described, results in excess water simply escaping us, creating a dry, very warm environment. When the period of hot weather and lack of rain comes, there is a problem for the functioning of people, plants and animals, who also suffer from high temperatures. And water is a valuable resource that should be treated as a boon during heavy rainfall.

Today we laugh at concrete cities, we criticize concrete mix, but beware: these are often projects started 6 years ago. At that time, no one cared about these issues. Our consciousness has risen rapidly, but it has begun to change quite recently. In fact, it was only climate change and its symptoms that convinced people that it was necessary to look at reality differently.

Also read: What are the challenges for cities? We checked different corners of the world [WUF 2022]

“Delete everything, build housing as cheaply as possible and sell as dearly as possible”

There were high temperatures and heavy rainfall. What about other extreme phenomena such as storms?

The logic behind it is quite simple. Keep in mind that a higher temperature actually means more energy in the environment. Of course, creating a thunderstorm is not just a matter of energy, but any time there is high temperature air, which often contains large amounts of water, the appearance of a thunderstorm is the release of that energy. This is achieved on the one hand by strong, short-term rainfall and on the other by strong wind gusts and lightning discharges. Therefore, the extent of damage caused by wind will become more and more visible in the accounts of insurance companies in the statistics.

We get to a situation where we ask questions about building houses that should be more windproof. But on the other hand, when we look at reports of damage to houses, we find that they are often on vacant lots where little or no woody plants grow. And these, in addition to their positive influence on the water management of the environment, also regulate the wind speed. In other words, this said energy can be dissipated in the canopy of trees or shrubs.

2022 heat storm
The extent of damage caused by wind will become a little more visible in the statistics in insurance company accounts, Photo: Trybex / Shutterstock

So we go back to how we perceive the surrounding landscape. We often subordinate it to short-term economic goals, so simply put: scrap everything, build housing as cheaply as possible and sell as expensive as possible. This creates a space that cannot withstand climate change, causes nuisance to residents and causes long-term economic damage. We must strive for a landscape that focuses on as much vegetation as possible.

“There is knowledge on the one hand and faith on the other”

Finally, I have a question to ask on behalf of the unconvinced. Do we know – and why, if we have – that the increase in violence is linked to human-induced climate change? For example, isn’t it a random whim, an exception we’ve seen in recent years?

Climate change is largely determined by an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In other words, we are ‘putting’ more and more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into our climate models to see if the temperature of the atmosphere is rising. It turns out it is. Even laboratory experiments from the nineteenth century confirmed that the more greenhouse gases, the warmer the atmosphere. This was later, of course, checked on the basis of large edition models.

Critics of the concept of climate change often question it, claiming it is an anomaly, some sort of joke. However, they don’t provide any process that climate models wouldn’t take into account that would cause an anomaly or reverse global warming. This is the main problem. On the one hand is knowledge, the best we can present at the moment, and on the other hand is belief. Believing that there must be a mistake on the part of science. And believe that somehow it will work out. It’s not rational. Today, many former doubters change their minds when they see temperatures they don’t even remember when they were young. Unfortunately, many people still take a view that is not supported by rational evidence.

Photo: marcin_sroka / Shutterstock.com

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