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Imagine 155 of the most elite bicycle racers in the world barreling through the Alps, rounding hairpin turns next to steep rock faces, heading directly into a hailstorm in the valley below, with ice pellets thicker than the tires on their bikes blanketing the roadway. The organizers of the Tour de France made the only decision they could on Friday — to stop it immediately for the safety of the riders. Egan Bernal was crowned the winner of the Tour de France on Sunday, riding into Paris on a beautiful evening, but the outcome of the race was arguably changed because of the bizarre weather — including the hailstorm and also heavy rain and mudslides that blocked the road and forced another rare decision — a shortening of Saturday’s stage as well.
Why This Matters: We often think of winter sports like skiing being impacted by warming, but not a summer classic like the Tour de France race. It is extremely rare for any stage of the Tour to be cut short, much less for one to be halted abruptly mid-stage. The extreme heat in France earlier in the week — which did not halt the race — apparently was the perfect set up for the wild weather that forced the organizers to make the adjustments. According to Bob Henson of Weather Underground, “The storms were kicked off by an approaching cold front and upper-level low, and the extreme heat in France appears to have teamed up with low-level moisture to increase the atmospheric instability,” adding that “Wind shear also favored the development of hailstorms.” It is just another way in which severe weather likely caused by the warming climate is impacting global events even in the world of sports.
One for the History Books
This year’s Tour de France will likely be remembered for its unlikely winner and the weird weather that snatched victory away from a Frenchman. As a result of the shorter race, the French rider who held the lead going into Friday’s climb up the Alps fell out of contention, and Columbian Egan Bernal ultimately won.
Above the North Pole, a polar vortex — a swirling flurry of cold air — could cause weeks of frigid weather in the Eastern United States, Northern Europe, and East Asia according to forecasters. Snow blanketed Spain over the weekend, dumping nearly two feet of snow on Madrid — the most snow in the last 50 years there. Madrid
Why this Matters: While many associate global warming with hotter weather, climate change can also cause harsher, more snowy winters.
This year we shattered the record for the number of named storms over the course of the six months of hurricane season with 30 — we exceeded the previous record by four. There were so many storms that we ran out of names and went deep into the Greek alphabet, which is what happens when we use up all the typical ones.
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