According to a November 4 article in the Wall Street Journal, climate related deaths are expected to set a record low in 2021 after decreasing steadily over the past 100 years. At the time the article appeared deaths from climate related disasters were projected to be around 6,600. That number is almost 99% lower than the death toll a century ago when half a million on average died each year. During the period between 1990 and 2020 weather related damage as a percent of GDP decreased by almost a third, about 1 percent drop per year over the past 30 years.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the 2021 world temperatures were unremarkable. On an absolute global scale by continent no new records were set. The world’s highest recorded temperature, 134°F was set in 1913 and the lowest temperature, -128.6°F was set in 1983. By hemisphere the present high temperature records are: Northern set in 1913, Southern set in 1960, Eastern set in 1931, and Western set in 1913. The WMO also divides the world into 11 named zones and records temperatures in those zones. Two of the high temperature records are over 100 years old and the average age of the 11 records is over 52 years. Only 3 new high records have been set in this century. A record for the Arctic Circle greater than 66.5 degrees North Latitude, was set in Verkhoyansk, Russia at 100.4°F in 2020. A record for Region 7, the Antarctic, was set at the Esperanza Research Station, Argentina at 64.9°F again in 2020. A third record was set for Region 2, Asia, in Turbat, Pakistan at 128.7°F in 2017. A similar look at the record lows show an average age of almost 70 years.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data, Maine is one of the eleven states with high temperature records greater than 100 years old and one of 40 states with a record high greater than 50 years old. Our record high of 105°F was set in North Bridgton on July 4, 1911. We are also one of the three states that had record lows this century. Our record low of -50°F was set at Big Black River on January 16, 2009.
What does this mean? Presently we are in a climate “Eden Zone’ when compared to the geological history of a world that has been covered in ice (Snowball Earth) or steaming hot with tropical plants growing in the arctic (Paleo-Eocene Thermal Maximum). We have had a remarkably stable temperature for the last two thousand years, it is getting better, and that folks, is the good news.
Joe Grant, Wiscasset