Global Warming to Worsen Heat Waves in American and European Cities

Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado released findings last week predicting that cities in the U.S. and Europe would likely suffer from more frequent and intense heat waves in years to come as a result of global warming.

Cities tend to get hotter than surrounding countryside as a result of their paved surface areas, lack of shading tree canopy, and concentration of energy expenditure. Recent heat waves in Chicago and Paris killed thousands of people and caused billions of dollars in damage. While the NCAR study reports that heat waves in those cities will worsen, it also predicts that other areas less adapted to such temperatures could suffer the most due to lack of preparedness.

The NCAR researchers are using a new computer model that takes into account growing levels of greenhouse gases when measuring for the likelihood of dangerous increases in localized temperatures. The comprehensive model also debunks a popular theory that other atmospheric pollutants like sulfur dioxide could reflect heat away from the planet and thus mitigate the warming effects of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, Princeton University researchers have published a complementary study showing that Americans and Europeans can stave off heat waves and other negative effects of global warming by limiting their output of carbon dioxide. “If we decide to act, we will need to reduce carbon emissions across the whole global economy,” says Princeton’s Robert Socolow.