As the planet continues to warm, multi-day heat waves are projected to increase in frequency, length and intensity.
As the planet continues to warm, multi-day heat waves are projected to increase in frequency, length and intensity. The additive effects of these extreme heat events overwhelm emergency service providers and hospital staff with heat-related maladies, disrupt the electrical grid and can even cause delays in air travel.
But existing studies do not consider the increased loss of life and economic hardship that could come from back-to-back — or compound — heat waves, which bring cycles of sweltering temperatures with only brief periods of normal conditions in between.
Princeton University researchers affiliated with the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) now have provided the first estimation of the potential damage wrought by sequential heat waves, according to a paper published April 12 in the journal Earth’s Future. The authors used computer simulations of Earth's climate to find that compound heat events will increase as global warming continues and will pose greater risks to public health and safety.
Compound heat waves would be especially dangerous to people who are already vulnerable to heat waves, particularly the elderly and residents of low-income areas. Government warning systems and health care outreach do not currently calculate the escalating risk these populations face from several heat waves in a row, the researchers reported. Instead, risk and response are determined by the severity of each individual episode of extreme temperatures.
Read more at Princeton University
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