New Yorkers, do you remember the heat wave of July 2012 in the city? As we sweltered in the oppressive heat, we came within a whisker of the month-long heat record set eleven years earlier. Ten days broke the 90-degree mark. Our asphalt streets jacked up that heat to oven-like conditions. The subway was nearly unbearable. Remember?
But what about Washingtonians? Do you remember July a year earlier? That month in 2011, you set your all-time record for summer misery. For 23 days that month, you broiled in the ninety-plus oven, and broke 100 seven times. Do you remember?
And Dallas, and Houston: You haven’t forgotten that summer either, have you? If Dante Alighieri had been alive to visit you in 2011, his Inferno would have had a whole section devoted to you. Remember the newscasters who fried eggs on car dashboards, and baked cookies on the passenger’s seats? You spent 34 consecutive days above 100 degrees. Do you remember?
Okay, it’s beginning to come back now, isn’t it?
Now, I want you to picture a very different world. This’ll take some imagination, but just try, okay? In this imaginary world, your very coldest July – your record cold July – is hotter than those sizzling months. That’s right: In this hypothetical world, July 2011 would break every record for summer cold snaps in Texas. Only 34 days straight above 100 in Dallas? Thank God for the cool weather! And in this land-of-make-believe, that’s true for every single month of the year. Not one single monthly record low that’s not hotter than the corresponding record high in our world.
Could you imagine living in such a world?
Well, depending on where you live, it may not take much imagination very soon. That’s the conclusion of peer-reviewed research published yesterday in the journal Nature. How soon? For New York and Washington, 34 years from now — 2037. For Istanbul and Kampala, same year. But for the six million residents of Papua New Guinea, this strange new world arrives in 2020 – only seven years from now.
“To put it simply,” National Geographic reports, “the coldest year in New Guinea after 2020 will be warmer than the hottest year anyone there has ever experienced.” Continue reading