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WMO Bulletin on Link between Heatwaves and Pollution

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a significant bulletin highlighting the intricate relationship between heatwaves and air pollution. This report, titled the “2023 WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin,” represents the third installment in an annual series that delves into the impacts of climate change on our environment. Released on the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, which falls on September 7, 2023, this bulletin provides vital insights into the challenges posed by rising temperatures and deteriorating air quality.

This topic of “WMO Bulletin on Link between Heatwaves and Pollution” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Release Details

  • Released by WMO: The bulletin is officially issued by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Connection: It sheds light on the correlation between heatwaves and air quality, demonstrating how climate change exacerbates air pollution.
  • Release Date: The bulletin was unveiled on September 7, 2023, aligning with the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

Climate Change Impacts: Amplifying Heatwaves and Air Pollution

The report underscores the profound consequences of climate change, which has led to a surge in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves. These heatwaves, in turn, have far-reaching effects on various aspects of our environment:

Increases in Heatwaves

  • The report highlights a noticeable increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, making them more prevalent and severe.

Resultant Effects

  • This intensification of heatwaves has resulted in a higher risk and severity of wildfires, particularly in regions like the United States and Europe.
  • The heatwaves have also led to a spike in air pollutants, including the inclusion of ozone, which further deteriorates air quality.

Heatwave Impacts in 2022: A Glimpse Into the Consequences

The bulletin provides a detailed analysis of the impacts of heatwaves in the year 2022, offering critical insights into the affected regions, triggering events, causes, and resultant air quality conditions.

Affected Regions

  • The regions primarily affected by heatwaves in 2022 include the United States and Europe.

Triggered Events

  • These heatwaves triggered a series of devastating wildfires, adding to the environmental challenges.

Causes

  • Desert dust played a significant role in exacerbating the heatwaves, compounding the issues of air quality.

Resultant Air Quality: Dangerous Levels

  • The heatwaves of 2022 led to dangerous levels of air pollution, posing a threat to human health, ecosystems, and crops.

Release Date of Information

  • The information regarding these heatwave impacts was made available on September 6, 2023, emphasizing its timeliness and relevance.

The Nexus Between Heatwaves and Wildfires

The bulletin explores the intricate relationship between heatwaves and wildfires, shedding light on the composition of wildfire smoke, the effects of the chemicals released, and the resultant emissions.

Smoke Composition from Wildfires

  • Wildfire smoke is characterized by a complex chemical mixture often referred to as a “witch’s brew.”

Effects of the Chemicals

  • These chemicals have detrimental effects on air quality, human health, and cause damage to plants, ecosystems, and crops.
  • Furthermore, the emissions from wildfires contribute to an increase in carbon and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Statement by Lorenzo Labrador

  • Lorenzo Labrador, a WMO scientific officer within the Global Atmosphere Watch network, highlights the significance of understanding the chemical components of wildfire smoke.

Reactive Gases and Their Products

  • Key reactive gases identified include nitrogen oxides and biogenic volatile organic compounds, which have far-reaching effects, including the production of ozone and particulate matter (PM).

European Summer 2022: Record-Breaking Heatwave

The bulletin details the unprecedented heatwave experienced during the European summer of 2022, emphasizing its record-breaking nature and consequences.

Status: Hottest on Record for Continent

  • The European summer of 2022 was confirmed as the hottest on record for the continent.

Consequences

  • The heatwave persisted for an extended period, leading to increased concentrations of particulate matter and ground-level ozone.

Observations

  • Data from air quality monitoring sites revealed that ozone levels exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 100 μg m–3 for an 8-hour exposure.
  • This phenomenon initially appeared in southwest Europe and progressively affected central and northeast Europe.

August 2022 Events

  • The heatwave coincided with an unusually high intrusion of desert dust into the region, further complicating matters.
  • The impact of desert dust, combined with the heatwave, had significant effects on human health and well-being.

Global Impacts: Ozone Levels and Agriculture

The bulletin takes a global perspective, discussing how rising ozone levels due to heatwaves affect agriculture and crop yields.

Ozone Levels Increase

  • Rising temperatures are leading to an increase in ozone levels, which, in turn, has consequences for agriculture.

Effects on Agriculture

  • The increase in ozone levels results in crop losses, with staples experiencing losses between 4.4% and 12.4%.
  • Specific crops like wheat and soybean are particularly affected, with losses ranging from 15% to 30%.

Most Affected Regions

  • India and China are among the regions most impacted by these ozone-related agricultural losses.

Statement by WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas

  • WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas emphasizes the adverse effects of heatwaves on air quality, human health, ecosystems, agriculture, and daily life.
  • He underscores the inseparable link between climate change and air quality and advocates for a comprehensive approach to address both issues simultaneously.

Responsible Organization: WMO

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is at the forefront of this crucial research, bringing together insights from experts and meteorologists to shed light on the intricate relationship between heatwaves and air pollution. As the world grapples with the complex challenges posed by climate change, the WMO’s work in unraveling these connections is instrumental in developing strategies to protect the environment and human well-being.

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