Study finds heat waves seven times more likely to occur today than 40 years ago

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 27, 2022

Heat waves, or high temperatures reoccurring for multiple days, pose a major threat to many aspects of everyday life: human health, ecosystems, food-producing regions, and crop growth. A study, published in January 2022, found that heat waves are seven times more likely to occur today than 40 years ago, affecting a larger area with hotter waves. 

In addition to the increase in hotter, larger heat waves, the study also compared the 1980s to the 2010s’ number of waves. The number of heat waves has doubled from May to Sept. in the Northern Hemisphere, or north of the equator. In the 1980s, about 73 waves occurred, and in the 2010s, there were 152. Other data included the number of days with two or more heat waves, which grew seven times higher from 20 in the 1980s to 143 in the 2010s.

The most significant heat waves struck North America, Europe, and Asia. India and Pakistan have experienced the hottest march in 122 years, with 64 percent less rainfall than normal in Pakistan and 71 percent in India. The heat waves in India and Pakistan have caused 90 deaths, floods, forest fires, and a wheat crop yield decrease. And the heat waves are unlikely to subside as climate change continues. If temperatures continue to rise, heat waves may become 2-20 times more likely than occurrences this year, and 0.5-1.5 degrees hotter.

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