There’s an old high school biology trope about a frog in a pot of heating water. It won’t jump out as the water gradually warms, apparently happy with its surroundings. Until its dead.
We’re potentially the frog and planet earth is the pot, according to a quick read in the New York Times by special correspondent Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for the environmental research group Climate Central.
For starters, July was the hottest month in human history, and the year is shaping up to set the annual record, too, according to Cullen, citing NASA.
Most years since 2000 have set records, and a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change blames most daily heat extremes on global warming.
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The article comes with a daunting map showing heat extremes creeping up from the south over the remainder of the century. By 2100, fully half the country is covered by a smear of red that indicates places where more than 50 days out of the year will have highs above 100 degrees. Most of the South, including South Carolina, is in that red state, so to speak.
The Lowcountry has been proving the point with a record-breaking heat wave: From June 22, there have now been 62 straight days with highs above 90 at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.
The heat is not just sweaty. It could make working or playing outdoors difficult and unhealthy, even deadly. It will worsen air quality, challenge food and water supplies, and change longstanding patterns of plant and animal behavior in ways that worsen disease and pests.
For example, a reindeer that carried anthrax and died 75 years ago might be the source of an outbreak of the deadly disease in Siberia this year. Thawing permafrost uncovered the animal, releasing living anthrax back into the tundra, where it infected live deer and possibly humans. More such outbreaks are likely in coming summers because millions of reindeer that died of the disease in the early 20th century were left in burial grounds close to the surface and scattered across northern Russia, according microbiologist Birgitta Evengard of Sweden.