07/01/2012 10:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Climate Change This Week: Extreme Heat, Thunder, and More

First Comes Extreme Heat: An historic U.S. heat wave moved from west to east last week, fueling record wildfires in the west, withering Midwest corn crops, and creating debilitating conditions for millions of Americans, reports Andrew Freedman at Climate Central. Lately, daily record-high temperatures have been outpacing daily record-lows by 2 to 1, an imbalance expected to grow as climate continues warming.

...Followed By Extreme Thunderstorms: Like the extreme Chicago heatwave of 1995 that fueled the extreme thunderstorms that followed, extreme heat over the weekend was followed by what amounted to a long string of thunderstorms of almost tornado intensity and destruction, known as a derecho, which killed 13 people and left millions in the U.S. without power to face further devastating heat without air conditioning, reports Andrew Freedman at Climate Central.

Torching of the West Just Beginning: As humans have suppressed fire consciously and inadvertently, as, for example, by fragmenting the landscape and introducing cattle (which reduce fuel loads by eating and trampling grass) over the past century, the climate has warmed. But this can't continue, a recent study shows, and now nature is starting to catch up with many more wildfires, reports Tom Yulsman at the Daily Climate.

Greenland Ice Sheet Tipping Towards Irreversible Decline: The Greenland ice sheet is melting ever faster, turning darker faster as it does so, reports Andrew Freedman at Climate Central. The increased darkness absorbs more heat, which speeds more warming. At this rate, melting will soon cover the entire ice sheet, say researchers, wiping out any further expansion and causing the ice sheet to decline irreversibly. When melted completely, our descendents will be facing a sea level rise of more than 20 feet. Zodiacs, anyone?

Driving a Stake Through the Heart of Coal Department: New York environmental regulators recently adopted carbon dioxide emissions limits for new and expanded power plants that make it nearly impossible to build a new coal unit in the state, reports Scott DiSavino at Reuters. The bad news is that it will be replaced with natural gas, a fossil fuel whose carbon footprint, from both mining and burning makes it almost as bad as coal in terms of contributing to climate change, studies show.

Save Baby Arctic Chicks! Climate change has melted the ice pack food source of Arctic ice birds from seven miles to 250 miles away from them and made their nesting habitat, Cooper Island, a prime target for hungry polar bears. These Arctic "penguins" and puffins need more bear-proof nesting boxes from humans to keep their chicks safe. Time is running out. The bears are coming in August. You can help here, and find out more about how dramatically climate change is changing their lives.

Every day is Earth Day, folks, as I was reminded when I photographed this red columbine not far from our research cabin. Making the U.S. a global clean energy leader will ensure a clean, safe future. If you'd like to tell Congress that you're voting for a cooler planet by supporting clean energy, and will vote for clean energy candidates, join the increasing numbers of people doing so here. For more detailed summaries of the above and other climate change items, audio podcasts and texts are freely available.