This Summer’s Heat Waves Are Breaking Records: Are You at Risk?

Climate change has affected the world in more ways than we may have thought possible. We see natural disasters on the rise, and now, record-breaking heat waves are occurring in many areas.

Scientists have looked into the increased risk for record-breaking temperatures, and have identified the areas that are most at risk. These areas could experience the devastation of prolonged and extremely high temperatures.

Photos: Pixabay / garten-gg

Some of the factors looked into in this study from the University of Bristol include the possibility of extreme heat and the vulnerability of the residents, due to their socioeconomic status.

The regions that were considered to be most at risk included Central America and Afghanistan.

The areas most at risk for extremely high temperatures included central Europe and Beijing. These were included because millions of people that live in the area would be affected negatively due to prolonged heat waves.

Extreme Temperatures Are Not Limited

Climate statistics were used by scientists to determine where temperature extremes were more likely to happen. They then looked at the communities in the area to see who was most at risk.

Between the years of 1959 and 2021, they determined that 31% of the regions analyzed experienced ‘statistically implausible extremes.’

Photos: / João Cautela

The extremes were more random, as there was no noticeable pattern as to where temperatures were likely to spike.

The co-author of the study, who is a Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Bristol, Dann Mitchell, spoke about the dire nature of those ‘unexpected heat waves.’

He said those heat waves worldwide ‘lead to heat-related deaths in the tens of thousands.’

He went on to say: “In this study, we show that such record-smashing events could occur anywhere.”

Unfortunately, most areas that are prepared for intense heat waves are those that have already experienced them. The researchers brought up that those areas only adapt after they feel the effects of the heat.

Photos: Pixabay / daschorsch

There are other things that add to the risk associated with heat waves, including an increase in population and limited healthcare.

The Highest Risk for Extreme Heat

Although extreme and prolonged heat can happen in any part of the world, there are some areas that are more likely to experience it.

One area where the effect can be devastating is Afghanistan. Not only is it one of the least developed countries in the world, the temperature extremes can sometimes push the limits of what the human body can handle. They are also projecting population growth in that area.

Some of the areas in Central America that are most susceptible to temperature extremes include Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

It is not out of the question for those Central American countries to experience spikes in temperature that have never been experienced previously.

There are also some countries that have not had record heat waves recently, but the dense population increases their risk. This includes Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The Need for Heat Wave Action Plans

At the University of Bristol, scientists are looking for help from policymakers. Areas that are more at risk of death and other issues associated with heat waves need to come up with an action plan.

Dr. Vikki Thompson, the lead author of the study, spoke about the need to be better prepared as heat waves continue to occur.

This goes beyond preparing through infrastructure enhancements; it also involves educating communities to understand how to handle temperature extremes. Otherwise, many thousands are at risk of dying as a result of those high temperatures.

Dr. Thompson spoke about the need to identify regions with growing populations that are already hot. She admits that those regions may have been ‘lucky so far,’ but then she sums things up, saying:

“We need to ask if the heat action plans for these areas are sufficient.”

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