Extreme heat is now covering 13 percent of the planet, according to a new study, a drastic increase since the figure was less than 1 percent in the years before 1980.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, points to climate change as the main culprit for the spike. Today's New York Times reports that scientists behind the study claim that events like the last year's heat wave in Texas and the Russian heat wave of 2010 would not have happened without the climate change caused by the release of greenhouse gases by human activities.
“The main thing is just to look at the statistics and see that the change is too large to be natural,” James Hansen, one of the climate scientists who produced the report, told the Times.
Hansen has headed NASA's prestigious Goddard Institute for Space Studies for more than three decades. A pioneer of climate research, he was one of the first prominent scientists to warn of global warming.
But the Atlantic Wire reports that climate-change skeptics accuse Hansen of "tampering with temperature recordings."
The Times noted, "there is no proof that he has done so and the warming trend has repeatedly been confirmed by other researchers."
July was the hottest month recorded in the United States since 1895, NOAA reported, and 55 percent of the U.S. is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions.