Climate change causes longer heat waves


Climate change is causing longer, more intense heat waves, a new study suggests.

Since 1979, global heat waves have moved 20% slower – meaning more people stay warmer longer – and they occur 67% more often, says a study in the US journal Science Advances.

The study found that temperatures recorded during heat waves are higher than 40 years ago.

Previous studies have shown worsening heat waves, but this one is more comprehensive and focuses heavily not only on temperature and area, but also on the duration of the severe heat and how it spreads across continents, said study co-authors and climate scientists Wei Zhang of Utah State University and Gabriel Lau of Princeton University.

From 1979 to 1983, heat waves lasted an average of eight days, but from 2016 to 2020, this duration could reach 12 days, according to the study.

Eurasia was particularly affected by longer-lasting heat waves, according to the same source.

“This study sends a clear warning that climate change is making heat waves even more dangerous in more ways than one,” said Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

The scientists conducted computer simulations showing that these changes were due to heat emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

“One of the most direct consequences of global warming is the increase in the frequency of heat waves,” noted Jennifer Francis, scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

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