Colder than Mars, apparently: The polar vortex’s frigid chill has plunged temperatures in parts of the US to as low as -50°C | Image credit: Dailymail UK

‘Polar Vortex’ freezes US, Canada

The US and Canada were engulfed by a brutal ‘polar vortex’ (a large pocket of the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere), as it descended south from the Arctic. Six American states plunged to all-time low temperatures, colder than the South Pole (under -50° Fahrenheit). While US President Donald Trump, mocked the issue of global warming in a tweet, experts pointed out that Trump can’t distinguish between local weather and long-term impacts of climate change, and the fact that extreme cold can strike amidst global warming.

Campaigners also said Trump, while denying the science, has recognized the climate threats his personal properties face, as he intends to build two sea walls around his golf resorts in Ireland, citing global warming as a risk in one of the its applications for the construction.

Australia records hottest Jan on record as wildfires scorch Tasmania

There’s no respite from the heat for those living Down Under. The country’s hottest December on record was quickly followed up by the hottest January on record, with average temperatures exceeding 30°C. The searing heat has led to disastrous wildfires in Tasmania, an island off the country’s south coast, with reports of snakes being forced to take refuge in people’s toilets.

Experts blamed the heat on a persistent high-pressure system in the Tasman Sea, which, according to them, was “blocking cold fronts and cooler air from impacting the south of the country”. This, coupled with Australia’s warming trend — the country has seen a temperature increase of more than one degree in the past 100 years — was also blamed by experts for the unusually warm weather. Campaigners, meanwhile, called it a failure of governance saying that despite the wildfires, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

Landmark study: A third of Himalayan ice cap will vanish by 2100

A recent study says temperatures in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region will rise by 1.8°C by the end of the century, even if the world manages to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Such a spike in temperatures in the Himalayas would melt one-third of the region’s glaciers, potentially “destabilizing” Asia’s rivers, the research said. An estimated 36% of the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2100 (70% if emissions are not cut). This would cause a water crisis for nearly 2 billion people, the study warned. “This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” said Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who led the report. “In the best of possible worlds, if we get really ambitious [in tackling climate change], even then we will lose one-third of the glaciers and be in trouble. That for us was the shocking finding.”

Studies have also shown that the colour of the Himalayas has turned from pristine white to grey, and the low-altitude glaciers are losing water faster due to global warming, creating a water crisis in these regions.

Climate alarm to climate action: David Wallace-Wells is back

Climate writer David Wallace-Wells is back with a follow-up of his controversial apocalyptic article he first published in New York magazine in 2017. Now, Wallace has updated it to a full-fledged book. Based on the worst-case climate scenario predicted by science, his article had warned of  a future struck with drought, plague and famine, with collapsing economies, surging conflicts and decay in human cognitive abilities.

While talking about his book, Wallace said he learned an ‘astonishing fact’ that more than half of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels was emitted in the past 25 years. “We have burned more fossil fuels since the UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change than in all of the centuries before,” Wallace warned, while statigthat the world is ‘engineering its own devastation practically in real time’.

Wallace called on citizens to take a more active role in effecting change and said they should not sit back as leaders will not act without political pressure. “I would like people to be scared of what is possible because I’m scared. And because I am motivated by fear, I also hope they will be motivated,” Wallace said.

‘Sea change’ in world’s understanding of Atlantic conveyor belt

New research has uncovered data that could completely change scientists’ understanding of the Atlantic Ocean current, which is responsible in determining weather across the world.

The research says that the strength of the “Atlantic conveyor belt” ( it is a large-scale ocean current that moves warm, salty water from the tropics to regions further north, such as western Europe), is actually driven by processes in the waters between Greenland and Scotland, more than 1,000 miles away in the north-east Atlantic, and not in the previously believed Labrador Sea, which is in the north-west Atlantic.

According to a scientist who worked on the study, this discovery could provide a deeper insight into how climate change is affecting this circulation pattern, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), because it points out the regions and processes that are important in maintaining the overturning circulation.

The Atlantic conveyor belt releases heat into the atmosphere, and keeps western Europe 5°C warmer. Scientists fear that climate change could “slow down” the conveyor belt effect.

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