These countries are at more risk of harm by record-breaking heatwaves

Extreme heat is more dangerous in developing countries.

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Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, killing thousands of people. As seen in western North America in June 2021, record-breaking temperature extremes can have major issues for civilization and the Environment. The new study aims to discover locations around the world that have not suffered higher temperature extremes.

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent, intense, and raised due to human-induced climate change, which could result in thousands more unnecessary deaths worldwide. 

A new study has identified underdeveloped areas around the globe that are most susceptible to the harmful impacts of extreme heat.

The study, led by the University of Bristol, demonstrates that extraordinary heat extremes paired with socioeconomic vulnerability put specific countries at risk, including Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Central America.

Countries that have yet to experience the most intense heat waves are frequently vulnerable, as adaptation measures are frequently implemented after the event.

The risks are increased by the likelihood of breaking temperature records, expanding populations, and insufficient healthcare and energy supplies.

The risks have been increased by the possibility of breaking temperature records, growing population growth, and limited healthcare and energy resources.

The researchers are calling on policymakers in high-risk areas to adopt relevant action plans to lessen the probability of mortality and other consequences from climate extremes.

Lead author and climate scientist Dr. Vikki Thompson at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute for the Environment said, “As heatwaves are occurring more often, we need to be better prepared. We identify regions that may have been lucky so far – some of these regions have rapidly growing populations, some are developing nations, and some are already very hot. We need to ask if the heat action plans for these areas are sufficient.”

The researchers used extreme value statistics and big datasets from climate models and observations to identify places worldwide where temperature records are most likely to be broken shortly and communities most vulnerable to excessive heat.

They also warned that statistically implausible extremes, such as breaking current records by margins that seemed impossible to understand until they happened, may happen anywhere.

These unlikely events, such as the 2021 Western North America heatwave, were discovered to have occurred in nearly a third (31%) of the locations analyzed where measurements were deemed credible enough between 1959 and 2021.

Co-author Dann Mitchell, Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute for the Environment, said, “Being prepared saves lives. We have seen some of the most unexpected heatwaves worldwide lead to heat-related deaths in the tens of thousands. In this study, we show that such record-smashing events could occur anywhere. Governments around the world need to be prepared.”

Improving our understanding of where society may be unprepared for climate extremes will help prioritize mitigation efforts in the most susceptible areas.

In 2019, the University of Bristol became the first UK university to declare a climate emergency, recognizing the hazardous impacts of climate change as proven by the work of its climate scientists.

Journal Reference:

  1. Thompson, V., Mitchell, D., Hegerl, et al. The most at-risk regions in the world for high-impact heatwaves. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-37554-1
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