Scientists say heat waves will be common in the future in U.S.
WASHINGTON, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Exceptionally long heat waves and other hot events could become commonplace in the United States in the next 30 years, according to a new study by Stanford University climate scientists.
"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 United States by 2039, posing serious risks to agriculture and human health.
"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," he said.
In the study, Diffenbaugh and colleagues used two dozen climate models to project what could happen in the U.S. if increased carbon dioxide emissions raised the Earth's temperature by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) between 2010 and 2039 -- a likely scenario, according to the International Panel on Climate Change.
According to the climate models, 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.
The 2030s are projected to be even hotter. "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.