Study: Exceptionally Long Heat Waves Could Become Commonplace During Next 30 Years

Posted on July 10, 2010

A new study by Stanford University climate scientists indicates that exceptionally long heat waves could become commonplace in the United States in the next 30 years. The image above shows the increase in the number of extremely hot seasons per decade over the next three decades. The study follows a recent NASA report, which concluded that the previous decade, January 2000 to December 2009, was the warmest on record.

"Using a large suite of climate model experiments, we see a clear emergence of much more intense, hot conditions in the U.S. within the next three decades," said Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and the lead author of the study.

Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), Diffenbaugh concluded that hot temperature extremes could become frequent events in the U.S. by 2039, posing serious risks to agriculture and human health. Diffenbaugh is also concerned that we could see heat waves in the U.S. as bad as the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed 35,000 people.

"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. "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."

You can read more about the Stanford climate study here.

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