Meteorologist Names and Shames Big Oil Companies

Guy Walton has been a meteorologist with The Weather Channel for the last 30 years. He was in the news recently for his unique take on the heat wave naming convention.

Guy has been naming the heat waves of 2023 after the fossil fuel giants. Some of the names that he suggested were Heat Wave Amoco, Heat Wave BP, and Heat Wave Chevron. But what’s the relationship between heat waves and fossil fuel companies?

What are heat waves?

Heat waves happen when the maximum and minimum temperatures in an area are above the historical average for that area for two or more days.

Heat waves begin when high pressure is formed in the atmosphere. A mass of warm air builds up in still and dry summer conditions. The high-pressure area pushes this warm air towards the ground. As this air is compressed, it warms up even further. When this moves up, it is again pushed down by the high-pressure area and the cycle continues.

This creates heat domes, an area of high pressure where hot air is pushed down and trapped in place, causing temperatures to soar over large areas.

Unusually hot days and heat waves are natural phenomena, but their frequency and duration are on the rise.

Climate change is making heat waves more common and hotter

The summer of 2023 broke records as the hottest summer to date. As of September, 2023 ranks as the second hottest year, marginally behind 2016. From Australia and Antarctica to North and South America, above-average temperatures were observed worldwide in 2023.

In July 2023, large areas of the U.S. and Mexico, Southern Europe, and China experienced extreme heat, breaking many local high-temperature records. In the midwest, mid-Atlantic, and north-eastern regions of the U.S., about 190 million Americans were under heat advisory alerts for weeks at a stretch.

High temperatures caused forest fires in Greece, Italy, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, and Canada, burning millions of acres of land and impacting residents and tourists.

Scientists at the World Weather Attribution analyzed how human-induced climate change has altered the likeness and intensity of these heat waves.

Within a week, they found out that the heat waves were warmer by 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit in Southern Europe, by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in North America, and by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in China due to human-induced climate change.

Burning fossil fuels, which we use for everything from generating electricity to powering vehicles, adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. They trap more heat energy in the atmosphere and raise the average temperature, which, in turn, increases the intensity and frequency of these heat waves. Scientists concluded that if the world doesn't stop burning fossil fuels, these heat waves will further increase.

There is a direct relationship between fossil fuels and heat waves, which is why naming heat waves after fossil fuel companies makes sense. This is especially true as we are currently facing a climate emergency, and companies like Shell, Chevron, BP, and Exxon have made record profits in 2022. Additionally, Shell has quietly abandoned its $100 million sustainability plan.

If publicly associating these companies with heat waves can encourage them to become more sustainable, then why not heat things by naming heat waves after fossil fuel companies?

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