Heat Wave or The New Normal ?

Nial Moores, Birds Korea, August 9th 2018

In addition to the sometimes fascinating birding, one of the reasons for setting up the Birds Korea office in Busan was the mildness of the climate. Squeezed into the very southeastern corner of the Korean Peninsula, much of the city is cooled naturally by the East Sea and the Korean Strait in summer and kept above freezing in winter.  July and August are the city’s hottest months – as elsewhere in Korea – but, even then, at least in an “average” year dawn minima rarely exceeded 25C, and day-time maxima of 30C were pretty exceptional. Not in recent years, though, and certainly not this year.

According to data presented on the Accuweather website, after a cool start to the month, since July 10th daily maxima and minima in Busan have stayed above average – now for four full weeks straight, with no milder weather yet in the forecast.  There have been 26 “tropical nights” of 25C or above so far; and the maximum temperature has risen above 30C every day for a month, peaking on several days at 35C and at 36C on August 5th.  As a result, July maxima were 2.8C above average; and August maxima are 3.75C above average so far.  Sea temperatures have not been as extreme, but are currently 1.5C above the average too – about o.2 C short of the previous maximum.

In spite of these persistent extreme temperatures, however, Busan has been milder than many other parts of the Peninsula.  New national maxima temperatures have been broken in the ROK at least twice so far this summer, with the new national high of 41.0C recorded by the KMA website in Hongcheon (east of Seoul) at 16:00hrs on August 1st.

August 1st 2018: Screenshot of the national heat advisory posted on the KMA website as new record high temperatures were reached. Pinks and reds indicate temperatures of 35C and brusied purple of >40C.

Overnight lows have broken records too – with Seoul and cities like Gangneung “enjoying” a couple of nights that stayed at 30C or above.  Much of the DPRK has been hit by the same severe heat, described as an “unprecedented natural disaster” as temperatures reached 40C in Pyongyang.  Much of Japan too; and much of Western Europe; and large parts of North America.

Yes: the increased heat might coincide with an increase in a few tropical-preferential species here in Busan, like Fairy Pitta and Black Paradise Flycatcher (with one of the local pairs managing to fledge at least one young this summer). But if this is the new normal – as it very much feels and looks – it will also result in further increases in human heat-related deaths; more failed crops; longer periods of water scarcity; and over time the decline or loss of many naturally-occurring plant and animal species.

Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, Busan, August 8 2018


Seems many of us keep trying to do what we can to avoid taking any responsibility for the harm we do the planet and to other people (whether because of ignorance, greed or political disposition); but are there really any sane people out there who still seriously deny the science of climate change?




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