July was the hottest month recorded in history, according to a statement released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aug. 15. Regions of the world are experiencing the heat at staggering rates, including Alaska, Europe, the Hawaiian islands, the Arctic and Asia.
This intense heat wave may be the hottest that the Earth has gotten in the past 800,000 years, even prior to record, according to Dr. Patrick Bartlein, a paleoclimatologist who studies the history of climates across the globe at the University of Oregon.
“The notion of the hottest month in the last 140 years is just how long the instrumental record is,” Bartlein said. “There's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in the last 800,000 years.”
Impacts of the international and national crisis have reached Oregon, as well. The Washington Post initiated an in depth temperature analysis across the United States, highlighting two Oregon counties as areas of major concern. Temperatures in both Lake and Harney counties, which neighbor each other in southern Oregon, have risen 3.8 and 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit respectively since the early 20th century.
Dawn Lepori, a Lake County local who works for Lake County Air, has had mixed experiences with heat in the area. She described town remaining fairly temperate, but the desert nearby is extremely hot. “In town, it’s different,” Lepori said. “If you’re going out into the desert part, it’s a whole other story.” The air quality has been muggy and dense due to the neighboring fires, Lepori said.
Eugene itself has endured some drastic seasonal changes changes from heat outbreak. The massive amounts of snowfall in late February of 2019 were both uncommon and record-breaking. The Oregonian called the spring storm “the biggest snowfall to hit the city this late in the season.”
Bartlein attributed this incident, once again, to carbon emissions. The greenhouse gases retain the heat of the warm weather in the atmosphere and release it later, resulting in late snowfall occurrence. “It's usually described as "trapping heat," but it's not really trapping, it's absorbing and reemitting,” he said. “If you put a pan on the stove, heat up the pan, take the pan away from the heat, you can still feel the heat radiating from the pan.”
The longevity and prominence of the heat can be mostly attributed to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, according to both NOAA and Bartlein.
The future of local and global temperatures are currently being predicted by various models, historic data sets and projections created by climatologists. Bartlein said that these models will be helpful in predicting future weather.
Considering current carbon emissions, projections predict winters will heat up fast, Bartlein said. “Winter should be getting warmer faster than summer,” he said. “If you get rid of snow and ice that makes the land’s surface darker, it’ll absorb more solar radiation and reflect less back to space. That’s something we see.”