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Extreme Heat Affecting Us

Higher temperatures and excess heat are likely to happen more often and last longer due to increasing air temperature also affects the oceans, weather patterns, snow and ice, and plants and animals. The warmer it gets, the more severe the impacts on people and the environment will be.

A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union on this, reveals that extreme heat events both in summer and in winter are increasing across the U.S. and Canada, while extreme cold events in summer and winter are declining. It examined absolute extreme temperatures, that is, high temperatures in summer and low temperatures in winter and also observed unusually cold temperatures and unusually warm temperatures throughout the year. As a result of the new research, it is found that both relative and absolute extreme cold events are decreasing day by day mostly in Alaska and Northern Canada, along with patches along the US Atlantic coast. Scott Sheridan, professor in the department of geography at Kent State University and lead author of the new study with his co-author conducted a climatology of cold and heat events, both absolute and relative, for North America, followed by an analysis of how they have changed from 1980-2016. The new study is one of the first to explore relative extreme temperature events, which are changing more rapidly than absolute temperature extremes, which can affect the environment, agriculture and human health. It is seen that relative extreme temperature events are changing faster than absolute extreme events, and often occur outside of seasonal norms. Out-of-season extreme temperatures can cause early frozen season in mild winters or have adverse effect on people. It is scary to know that across parts of the Arctic, extreme cold events have gone completely that even researchers find it difficult to find. Researchers reported that the event conducted in March 2012 encountered persistent mid-summer warmth in multiple locations due to which vegetation prematurely left dormancy leading to large agricultural losses in certain areas. The study also says that these early-season heat events are more dangerous for human beings than heat events later in the season because people may have negative health impacts, especially the elderly, infants, young children, and people with chronic health problems or disabilities. The study clearly states that it is high time to not only focus at high temperatures in the summer but also at relative temperatures. Kristie Ebi, professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, also says “Using information generated in the study on regional patterns in extreme weather events, particularly relative extremes in temperature, early warnings could be issued that include information on what people can do to protect themselves and to protect crops and ecosystems".

By: Anuja Arora