Climate change: what areas of the world are most vulnerable to extreme heat waves

Elizabeth Smith

There is no place in the world that has not already experienced the consequences of climate change. From the poles to the equatorial countries, differences from the past have in all cases already been recorded. But it is certain that there are areas that are more vulnerable to extreme heat waves, due to a wide variety of climatic, geographic and economic factors.

In many cases, communities living in these areas have little or no preparation for periods of significantly higher temperatures than past averages. With consequences that could be devastating.

A study published a few days ago in the scientific journal Nature Communications has therefore sought to identify what areas of the world are most vulnerable to extreme heat waves. So as to spur initiatives to prevent at least some of the related damage.

The premise of the study

The study, conducted by a research team consisting of Vikki Thompson, Dann Mitchell, Gabriele C. Hegerl, Matthew Collins, Nicholas J. Leach, and Julia M. Slingo starts with an all-too-simple assumption.

Since extreme heat waves in the coming years will be inevitable, it may be useful to identify the areas that will be most affected. This, in order to put in place activities aimed at making these climatic phenomena less dangerous.

What led scholars to work on this aspect of research were the heat waves that hit the United States in the summer of 2021. During those months, 100 extreme-drop-related deaths were recorded in Washington state, and nearly 100 in Oregon state. As Dann Mitchell explained, “high temperatures caught so many people unprepared“. So the idea was: “could we preemptively identify risk in different regions of the world?”

Areas of the world most vulnerable to extreme heat waves

To identify the areas of the world most vulnerable to extreme heat waves, the team of researchers analyzed the maximum temperatures of various spots over the past 60 years. And then used statistical models and patterns related to climate change to figure out which areas are most likely to have to deal with extreme temperatures in the coming years.

According to the researchers, the areas most likely to experience extreme temperatures are located in Asia, Europe and Central America.

The areas of the world most vulnerable to extreme heat waves would especially be those that, being particularly exposed to very high temperatures in the future, are not prepared for them. This, due to existing socioeconomic problems. The focus in these cases goes especially to countries such as Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Honduras and Guatemala.

The greatest fears are for those countries that have not yet been exposed to extreme temperatures in past years. And thus may be caught completely unprepared when such climatic situations take place in the coming years.

Also of concern is the fact that heat waves in the coming years will affect so many extremely populated areas. Such as those in Beijing or central Europe, making many large cities scorching hot. As Vikki Thompson, who led this study, explained, “We have identified regions that have been relatively lucky so far. Some of these are experiencing rapid population growth, some are in developing countries, and some are already very hot.” “We have to ask ourselves,” Thompson stressed, “whether the actions being planned to counter these episodes are sufficient.”

Read also: Global warming: what is the key to living on a warmer planet

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