Hot summers will be new normal, says study
'We need to think strongly about adaptation,' says Victoria climatologist
CBC News Posted: Nov 12, 2017 6:00 AM PT Last Updated: Nov 12, 2017 6:59 PM PT
Record-breaking hot summers will be the new normal within 20 years due to human-influenced climate change, according to a new study co-authored by the president of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria.
Climatologist Francis Zwiers found that sweltering summers have become at least 70 times more likely over the past four decades. The research shows that by 2050, virtually every summer will be hotter than any experienced to date.
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Zwiers' study examined wet bulb globe temperature, which is a standard measure of heat that takes temperature and humidity into account. It is often used to determine the safe exposure levels for people working outdoors in direct sunlight.
Evidence is evident
"The evidence is very clear that we humans are raising the temperature of the planet by emitting more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere," said Zwiers.
People working outdoors in summer will likely be exposed to rapidly rising risks of heat stress in regions with the most significant rise in wet bulb globe temperature, said Zwiers.
Zwiers and his colleagues looked at wet bulb globe temperature changes in 10 global regions. Hotter summers caused by human-influenced climate change were evident in all of them, but the findings show the Mediterranean region and Asia are feeling the heat the most.
According to Zwiers, the high temperatures aren't likely to come down in the near future.
"There is strong evidence to suggest that the warming that we have caused is not going to be rapidly reversible. It's essentially permanent on an intergenerational timescale," said Zwiers.
Zwiers warned warmer temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather situations, such as flooding and fires.
He said the frequency with which we are going to have to take protective action is going to increase very rapidly as time advances.
"We need to think strongly about adaptation," said Zwiers, "How we heat and cool our houses. How we move around. And how we issue warnings and get people out of harm's way."
Zwiers said in the Pacific Northwest, coastal flood protection measures should be a priority.
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