Climate crisis: Earth has twice as many days over 50C now than in 1980s

·2-min read
A boy walks through a dried up agricultural field in the Saadiya area, north of Diyala in eastern Iraq (AFP via Getty Images)
A boy walks through a dried up agricultural field in the Saadiya area, north of Diyala in eastern Iraq (AFP via Getty Images)

The number of extremely hot days where the temperature smashes the 50C mark has doubled since the 1980s, according to a BBC analysis.

Extreme heat can be deadly for humans, turning farmland into arid wastelands, destroying nature, and devastating buildings, roads and power plants.

On average, between 1980 and 2009, temperatures passed 50C about 14 days a year but this rose dramatically to 26 days a year between 2010 and 2019.

The Middle East and Gulf states have so far been most affected by the soaring temperatures but the Met Office warned that Europe could soon experience the same after record-breaking 48.8C temperatures in Syracuse in Sicily.

Dr Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “The increase can be 100 per cent attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.”

Scientists are calling for urgent action from world leaders at an upcoming UN summit in Glasgow in November.

“We need to act quickly. The faster we cut our emissions, the better off we’ll all be,” says Dr Sihan Li, a climate researcher at the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Professor Peter Stott, a climate expert for the Met Office, said: “Climate change is making heat-related extremes of weather more intense and when we think about those record-breaking temperature the chance of breaking temperature records – or coming close to breaking records – is greatly increased.

“We can’t say exactly when it is likely to happen, but Europe will need to prepare for the eventuality of further records being broken with temperatures above 50C being possible in Europe in future, most likely close to the Mediterranean where the influence of hot air from North Africa is strongest.”

According to the Met Office, the average temperature has risen by around 1.1C since the late 1800s - with some areas rising more.

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