Science 3 min read

Heat Waves Frequency and Intensity to Increase by Mid-Century

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A recent study conducted by NOAA scientists suggests that the frequency and intensity of heat waves might increase substantially in the next three decades.

In their study, the researchers examined not just the frequency but the spatial size of heat waves too. The team found that by mid-century, excessive greenhouse emission could increase the average size of heat waves by 50 percent.

However, under high greenhouse gas concentrations, the average size of the said phenomena might increase by 80 percent.

Brad Lyon, the lead author of the paper published in Environmental Research Letters, said:

“As the physical size of these affected regions increases, more people will be exposed to heat stress. Larger heat waves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the grid as more people and businesses turn on air conditioning in response.”

Lyon and his team also noted that related attributes like the duration, magnitude, and cooling degree days could increase significantly in the coming decades.

Extreme Heat Waves to Affect More Communities

Despite the alarming discoveries, the researchers said that it’s not surprising at all. Lyon noted that growing magnitude and duration is naturally related to a warming climate.

To calculate the increase in the spatial size of heat waves, the NOAA scientists followed them and quantified their “attributes as connected regions that move around and change in size and strength over their lifetime.”

“It’s sort of like watching what groups of people are doing as they move around together in a park, rather than just counting how many people from all those groups entered the park,” Lyon explained.

By using this method, the team was able to assess how its size, together with frequency and intensity, could affect communities in the future.

The researchers stressed that the energy sector could be affected severely by these phenomena.

“If you have a large contiguous heat wave over a highly-populated area, it would be harder for that area to meet peak electric demand than it would be for several areas with smaller heat waves that, when combined, are the same size,” Tony Barnston, a co-author of the study from Columbia University, said.

The NOAA scientists believe that their new approach could help energy companies test their energy capacity. Doing so will give these utilities ample time to meet the energy demand during spatially extensive heat waves.

Read More: Valley Fever Range To Double In Size Due To Climate Change

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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