Folks sweating out the heat wave battering parts of the country may just have to get used to it. A Stanford University study concludes that as global warming continues, such heat waves will become increasingly common.
"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," Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, said in a statement.
Diffenbaugh and Moetasim Ashfaq, a former Stanford postdoctoral fellow now at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, used a series of computer models of climate to calculate changes in the future with increased levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere. Their findings are reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
They calculate that within 30 years, the average temperature could be 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in the mid 1800s.
That level of increase has been reported by others, and most atmospheric scientists expect it to lead to changes in a variety of weather and climate conditions.
Diffenbaugh and Ashfaq focus specifically on heat waves over the United States. They say 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.
And the 2030s could be even hotter, they say.
The research was funded by the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation. The climate model simulations were generated and analyzed at Purdue University.