Severe Heat Waves: The Wave of the Future?
A climate study says they may become an annual threat
Can’t stand the heat? It’s easy enough to get out of the kitchen, but if two climate scientists are right, there may come more times when there’s nowhere cool to go.
Typically, serious, deadly heat waves come around every 20 years or so. But in a new study, data crunching using climate models showed they could become an annual occurrence across 60 percent of Earth’s land surface by 2075 if we don’t curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The heat waves may also be 5 to 9 degrees F hotter than today’s severe heat waves. “A few degrees may not seem like much on a mild day, but during extreme heat events, they can mean the difference between life and death for vulnerable populations, said co-author Michael Wehner in a statement.
The findings come from two experts, one from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and one (Wehner) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The good news: Their analysis showed cutting greenhouse gas emissions could help put some of those heat waves on ice.
Related: The 10 Driest Places on Earth
"The study shows that aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will translate into sizable benefits, starting in the middle of the century, for both the number and intensity of extreme heat events," said co- author Claudia Tebaldi, a senior research scientist at NCAR. "Even though heat waves are on the rise, we still have time to avoid a large portion of the impacts."
If stringent emissions policies were enforced, only about 18 percent of the Earth’s land surface would be affected by these heat waves every year, the study found.
According to the authors, the study is important because it puts hard numbers to the problem. "There is a cost attached to reducing emissions," Tebaldi said. "Decision makers are interested in being able to quantify the expected benefits of reductions so they can do a cost-benefit analysis."
Regular citizens can do their part to help. Here are just three examples of how you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Cut down on driving. Walk, ride a bike, carpool and use public transportation as much as possible, advises the Environmental Protection Agency. Also, look into making your car greener.
Switch to energy-saving light bulbs. If every household in the United States replaced just one regular light bulb with an LED bulb, it would reduce greenhouse gases by more than 90 billion pounds over the life of the bulbs, says the National Park Service.
Watch that thermostat. Turning down your thermostat 3 degrees F in the winter and up 3 degrees F in the summer will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,050 pounds per year, according to the National Park Service.
Staying safe in the heat
Heat waves can be deadly. People have died from heat stroke, as well as heart, kidney and respiratory failure during prolonged hot weather
It’s important to know the red flags of heat exhaustion, which often precedes heat stroke. Keep an eye for:
- Profuse sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Cool or moist skin with goose bumps, even though it’s hot
- Dizziness or low pressure when standing
Like this article? Share it with friends by clicking the Facebook or Twitter button below. And don't forget to visit our Facebook page!