Monday 24th October 2016                 Change text size:

Heatwaves to increase in frequency and severity, despite efforts to cut carbon

Canberra, ACT

Climate change will cause increasingly frequent and more severe heatwaves around the world over the next 30 years, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study claims that the occurrence of extreme heatwaves will increase in the short-term – regardless of any efforts to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, it adds that taking action now to cut emissions will prevent this rise in the long term.

Dr Dim Coumou, one of the lead authors of the study, said, “We find that up until 2040, the frequency of monthly heat extremes will increase several-fold, independent of the emission scenario we choose to take.”

Under a high-emission scenario, the researchers estimate that by 2100, 85% of the Earth will suffer from extreme heatwaves.

Coumou added, “Mitigation can, however, strongly reduce the number of extremes in the second half of the 21st century.”

“Heat extremes can be very damaging to society and ecosystems, often causing heat-related deaths, forest fires or losses to agricultural production.

“So an increase in frequency is likely to pose serious challenges to society and some regions will have to adapt to more frequent and more sever heatwaves already in the near-term.” 

A study published in July claimed that human influences could result in a five-fold increase in the chances of extreme heatwaves in Australia between 2006 and 2020. 

The researchers said, “We cannot categorically ascribe the cause of a particular climate event to anthropogenic climate change; however, the roles of various factors contributing to the change in odds of an event occurring can be identified.”

In mid-July, it was estimated that hundreds of people had died as a result of a heatwave in Britain]

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that between 540 and 760 people may have been victims of the high temperatures, which exceeded 30C in places.

Further reading:

UN agency reports on ‘decade of climate extremes’

Study: Australia will see more extreme weather because of climate change

1 in 10 people will live in a ‘climate change hotspot’ this century

British heatwave responsible for up to 760 deaths, say researchers

Environment Agency: climate change means we need to adapt to extreme weather

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