From the permafrost that adorns the grounds of Siberia to the sun-kissed dunes of the Sahara, our planet boasts a variety of different climate types. There are five major climate classifications consisting of Tropical, Dry, Moderate, Continental and Polar climates, with several sub-types such as wet and dry tropics. These climates have led to the rich biodiversity our planet enjoys, with plants and animals all bearing different ecological traits forged through millions of years of evolution.
The climate in these different areas have their own unique behaviours, such as the monsoons in South East Asia, cyclones in the Pacific or the tornadoes in the American Midwest. However, in recent years, the climate has been changing as a result of an increase in greenhouse gasses brought on by our species’ rapid industrialization and combustion of fossil fuels. These changes in the atmosphere have led to changes in the climate.
Now, the permafrost in Siberia is starting to melt for the first time, whilst the Sahara desert expands as temperatures soar in Northern Africa, meanwhile in Greenland ice caps melt at unprecedented rates and the Pacific generates larger, more powerful cyclones due to increased sea surface temperatures. A recent study published in Nature Climate Change showed that we are at risk of deadly heat increases should current trends continue unabated.
The paper concluded that climate change could exacerbate temperatures in all climates, pushing tropical and other dry environments to breaking point whilst significantly changing colder and temperate ones. It isn’t just the environment scientists are worried about — its us; as Camilo Mora, lead author of the paper explains:
“We found that killer heat waves around the world are becoming more common – and that this trend already seems unavoidable. The empirical data suggest it’s getting much worse. With high temperatures and humidity, it takes very little warming for conditions to turn deadly in the tropics. When it is both very hot and humid outside, heat in the body cannot be expelled. This creates a condition called ‘heat citotoxicity,’ that is damaging to many organs — think of it as a sunburn, but inside the body.”
These heatwaves would render much of the tropical regions to conditions that could be unsustainable for life, with temperate climates in Europe and America, who are ill-prepared for such events also suffering greatly – as was the case in 2003, when 70,000 people died as a result of an intense heatwave. Climates have been around for longer than we have, yet we are the ones altering them to almost critical levels with potentially irreversible side effects.