‘Heat waves could be commonplace in US by 2039’

Last Updated: Friday, July 9, 2010 - 15:05

Washington: A new study has claimed that heat waves in the United States could become very frequent in the next 30 years.
"In the next 30 years, we could see an increase in heat waves like the one now occurring in the eastern United States or the kind that swept across Europe in 2003 that caused tens of thousands of fatalities," said Diffenbaugh, a centre fellow at Stanford``s Woods Institute for the Environment.

"Those kinds of severe heat events also put enormous stress on major crops like corn, soybean, cotton and wine grapes, causing a significant reduction in yields," he added.

An increase in carbon dioxide would raise the Earth``s temperature by 1 degree Celsius. A 2-degree C temperature increase is the maximum threshold beyond which the planet is likely to experience serious environmental damage.

According to the study, an intense heat wave – equal to the longest on record from 1951 to 1999 – is likely to occur as many as five times between 2020 and 2029 over areas of the western and central United States.

"Occurrence of the longest historical heat wave further intensifies in the 2030-2039 period, including greater than five occurrences per decade over much of the western U.S. and greater than three exceedences per decade over much of the eastern U.S.," the authors wrote.

"By the decade of the 2030s, we see persistent, drier conditions over most of the U.S.," Diffenbaugh said.

"Not only will the atmosphere heat up from more greenhouse gases, but we also expect changes in the precipitation and soil moisture that are very similar to what we see in hot, dry periods historically. In our results for the U.S., these conditions amplify the effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations."

The report appeared in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


First Published: Friday, July 9, 2010 - 15:05

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