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Heatwaves in Europe 10 Times as Likely with Climate Change

Dec 09, 2014 12:05 PM EST
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Things are going to heat up in Europe by the 2030s according to a new study that says heatwaves will be 10 times as likely with climate change.

Researchers from the UK's Met Office compared incidents of heatwaves during 1990-1999 and 2003-2012. They found that summers with temperatures 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit) greater than the historical average now happen every five years, rather than every 52 years as in the previous period, the report published in the journal Nature Climate Change said.

And with carbon emissions continuing at their current levels, these hot weather patterns are only going to get more frequent.

"With summer temperatures on an upward trajectory, the perception of extremely hot summers in Europe is set to change markedly over the next few decades," the authors, led by Dr. Nikos Christidis, wrote.

This is following the Met Office's prior report from 2004 that said heatwaves had at least doubled as a result of human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels. Now, their update shows that their previous estimates were an understatement.

"Extremely warm summers that would occur twice a century in the early 2000s are now expected to happen twice a decade," Christidis added in a statement. "The chances of heatwaves as extreme as seen in 2003 have increased from about one-in-1,000 years to about one-in-100 years and are projected to occur once every other year by the 2030s-2040s under continuing greenhouse gas emissions."

A heatwave hit continental Europe in 2003 and killed an estimated 70,000 people, with sun-related symptoms ranging from fatigue, muscle cramps and heat exhaustion (fainting and vomiting) to heat stroke - also known as sun stroke - which is life threatening, according to the NOAA National Weather Service.

And with temperatures projected to rise 3.6 C (38.5 F) by the end of the century, people in Europe and the Mediterranean especially will be more at risk of suffering from heat stroke.

As well as the record-breaking European summer of 2003, The Guardian reports, severe heatwaves in the last decade have sweltered Moscow in 2010, Texas in 2011 and Australia, in its "angry summer" of 2012-2013. What's more, these hot months could be considered unusually cool in the future.

Heatwaves aren't the only form of extreme weather that Europe, as well as the United States and other parts of the world, can expect in the near future. The US East Coast will likely see daily tidal floods by 2045, megadroughts will leave the southwestern US water-deprived for 30 or so years - with California already experiencing the worst drought in a millennium - and lightning will strike the nation 50 more often with climate change.

Given this and a plethora of other information on how climate change and greenhouse gases are contributing to extreme weather patterns, affecting both humans and wildlife alike, and the fact that 2014 may be the hottest year on record, world leaders decided to meet in Lima, Peru for talks about a new global climate treaty. The coalition of 195 participants hopes to finalize a climate pact in Paris by the end of 2015 that will cap greenhouse gas emissions in every nation.

"This research by leading academics adds to the mounting scientific evidence that extremely damaging weather events will become more frequent and severe as a result of increasing climate change," said UK energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey. "Time is running out and more needs to be done globally to preserve the quality of life we take for granted."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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