Temperatures around 50 degrees: Most intense heat waves identified since 1950

© Manish Swaroop/AFP/DPA

Annette Stein – DB A

Climate change is increasing the frequency of heat waves. Analysis shows which areas can be particularly severely damaged.

Parts of India and Pakistan have been experiencing unusual heat for weeks. According to researchers, in the past decades between 1950 and 2021, such extreme weather phenomena often went unnoticed. The likely reason, they say, is that it occurred in areas with less available data In “Science Advances”.

The team, led by climate scientist Vicki Thompson of Britain’s University of Bristol, took into account the relative intensity of how extreme heat waves relate to normal local temperature fluctuations.

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The three most violent heat waves analyzed

“It is important to assess the intensity of heat waves based on changes in local temperatures, as both humans and the natural ecosystem adapt to them,” says Thompson. In areas with smaller fluctuations, even relatively small fringes can have large effects.

So the research team calculated the deviations from the average daily maximum temperature fluctuations for the regions under study. In the past decade, for example, a heat wave popped up in western North America last summer: On June 29, a Canadian high of 49.6 degrees was measured in Lytton, British Columbia. The previous record since 1950 exceeded 4.6 degrees. With hundreds of casualties, the heat wave was Canada’s deadliest weather event to date. The accompanying wildfires could have resulted in widespread damage to infrastructure and crop failure.

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According to the analysis, the three most intense heat waves in the world in relative intensity occurred in Southeast Asia in April 1998, in Brazil in November 1985 and in the southern United States in July 1980. However, the team says they are not definitive. List of the most dangerous events. Even small changes in methodology, such as temporal resolution or regional assignments, can alter specific events or their order.

The risks increase, especially in cities

“Climate change is one of the major global health issues of our time and we have shown that many heat waves have gone largely unnoticed outside the developed world,” said co-author Dan Mitchell of the University of Bristol. A heat wave could mean thousands of deaths in a country. Countries where temperatures are already rising are most at risk.

Using climate model projections, the team also inferred developments over the remainder of the century. The analysis confirms expectations that heat waves will intensify as global temperatures rise. Scientists warn that regions that have been exposed to fewer heat waves may be less prepared for possible upcoming events. This applies, for example, to parts of Australia and Central Africa.

It should also be borne in mind that the effects of heat in cities are amplified. According to forecasts, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, so the risks of heat waves will also increase there.

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