Experts say climate change is to blame for unprecedented heat; no end in sight
(CN) — New research says extreme weather events like the recent surge of summer heat waves across the U.S. are being spurred by the planet's ongoing battle with climate change.
In recent decades, many have become all too acquainted with record shattering heat waves that have put serious — and often deadly — pressure on communities around the world.
From the recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest that inflicted record-breaking high temperatures on places like Portland and Seattle, to the current heat wave rolling across the U.K., people from all kinds of regional climates are now no strangers to extreme heat.
In a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change, experts say that severe climate change happening across the world is increasing the likelihood that these massive heat waves will happen. Researchers found that it is not the amount of warming itself but the rate at which the warming takes place that really sets the stage for these extreme weather events.
Researchers used a series of complex climate data models and analysis techniques to look for correlations between climate change and surging temperatures. Using these models, experts were able to run through different possible outcomes for the planet that changed depending on the amount of emissions experts projected under each scenario.
What they found was under the high carbon emissions scenario, the probability of experiencing heat waves is likely to skyrocket in the coming years. According to their models, record heat waves lasting more than a week are going to be two to seven times more likely between now and 2050.
And experts say it doesn’t get any better from there. Between 2050 and 2080, just under 60 years from now, experts project heat waves will be three to 21 times more likely than they have been in recent decades.
Researchers also found that heat waves seem to be linked with the ebb and flow of climate change acceleration, with heat waves being more likely to happen in spurts during times of fast-paced climate warming but then slow down when climate warming is less aggressive.
These results, according to researchers, help to illustrate how imperative it is that we understand the most likely futures for these dangerous heat surges, particularly as local leaders — many of whom may be in areas not accustomed to extreme heat — try to prepare their communities for what is to come.
“We argue that it is vital to further investigate the plausibility of such record-shattering events, as the impacts tend to be particularly large at the first occurrence of such record-shattering events at a certain location,” the study states. “We show that taking into account the warming rate is vital for adaptation decisions.”
Experts stress that even if climate change were to become properly contained, heat waves would still be an uncomfortable reality for the planet.
But while heat waves cannot be totally avoided, researchers say putting meaningful measures in place to get climate change under control would help to drastically reduce the chances of these heat waves they predict will dominate the remainder of the 21st century.