We are becoming used to more frequent and more intense heat waves but recent research shows that they are also covering greater areas
— Not only are heat waves becoming more frequent and intense, but they are getting larger too. Analysis of 38 years of NASA climate data has shown that the average size of northern hemisphere heat waves has grown by 50% since 1980. Presenting his findings at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall meeting in December, Chris Skinner from the University of Massachusetts explained how today’s “mega” heat waves are putting more people and ecosystems at risk. “If D.C is in a heat wave, then New York might be in one, and Phily might be in one too,” he said.
Strangely the team found that winter heat waves had experienced the greatest growth in size, leaving northern hemisphere seasons less defined than they used to be. Although winter heat waves tend not to be as hot as summer ones they do still strain health services and confuse ecosystems. In particular false springs can trick plants into blooming prematurely and being in trouble when winter returns. For farmers this can be economically devastating.
Having established that heat waves have grown, Skinner is now looking ahead, understanding what kind of heat waves we can expect twenty years hence, and pin-pointing which parts of the world are most vulnerable.
by Kate Ravilious | The Guardian