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Over the past summer regions of China have also experienced intense heat waves with eastern China setting a record of 40.8 C (105.4 F).  Russia (Northern Siberia) has also had harsh rises in temperature over the summer.  In China, cities such as Shanghai were particularly vulnerable.  These images taken from the NASA Earth Observatory show the concentrations of the heat wave in different parts of China.

china heat wave

temp bar

NASA Earth Observatory

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Percentage increase in the number of heat wave events per year between baseline (1961-1990) and 2030s.  (Data derived from the UKCP09 Weather Generator
(Version 2) under the medium Co2 emissions scenario). BIOPICCC

This summer has in some cases tested the limits of the UK’s ability to endure extreme weather in the form of heat waves.  This will also likely also be a pressing issue for the short and long-term future.  A recent study published in Environment Research Letters predicts that unusually, extreme hot weather events experienced throughout the world will increase in extent and frequency.  WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) have reported on the rise in extreme weather and global temperature and have made similar predictions.  According to the research, five percent of the land area of Earth has experienced heat extremes far beyond the norm for summer.  Researchers note in the study that while certain areas of the world have received the most press coverage of heat wave events, the strongest increase in heat extremes is in the tropics when compared with historic variability.  The Mediterranean has also had a strong increase in climate extremes recently. Read the rest of this entry »

A heat wave has spread throughout the US and Canada.  More than 1,054 locations in the US have surpassed historical temperature records from March 13-19.  This image taken from NASA’s MODIS shows the large area of higher than average temperatures (in red).

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In some parts of England, over 40 percent of the population will be aged 65 and over in 2031.

The number of older people in the UK and other parts of the world is projected to increase significantly in the future.  By 2031, people 65 or older will make up over one in five of the population of England.  Extreme weather events in areas where older people require care are also projected to increase due to climate change, including floods and heat waves.

Researchers from IHRR and Heriot-Watt University part of the project BIOPICCC (Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change) have recently published a study that has mapped the likely patterns of heat waves, cold waves and flooding in England.  BIOPICCC is a 3-year project funded by the EPSRC part of a major research network known as ‘Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate’ (ARCC).  It is dedicated to developing strategies to make infrastructure for older people, including health and social care systems, sufficiently resilient to withstand the harmful effects of climate change, up to 2050.

According to the study, the warmest conditions in the future will be experienced in South and South West England, while the East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber will likely experience an increase in heat waves compared to present conditions.  While cold waves will be less common they will still present a challenge to health and social care providers.

Professor Sarah Curtis, Director of Frontier Knowledge in IHRR and a researcher in the Department of Geography in Durham University said: ‘It makes sense to plan ahead. Cold waves will continue to occur in the future and pose a significant health risk to older people. The 2009/10 cold wave resulted in 25,400 excess winter deaths in England and Wales, the majority amongst those aged 75 and over.

‘Service providers must take into account the increasing numbers of retired people living in rural settlements and moving to the coast. In some areas the oldest population will more than double by 2031, so needs for health and social care provision will increase’.

 ‘When extreme weather events occur, special measures are needed to make sure people have access to the care they need in the community as well as in hospitals. Planning is important to try to keep road networks and utilities functioning, to ensure community care teams can reach their clients, and to help people manage in their homes in extreme weather’.

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