Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web
Go Green banner ads

Published on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Third of the World Is Now Subject to Deadly Heatwaves


A Third of the World Is Now Subject to Deadly Heatwaves

As climate change continues to grow in intensity, humanity has started to feel the deadly effects. Thanks to increased greenhouse gas in our environment, high temperatures and sweltering conditions will be the new norm for a growing portion of the world. And these new heatwaves are so extreme they’ll prove to be fatal.

The Study

A new study out of the University of Hawaii and published in Nature Climate Change looked at the increasing number of fatalities associated with heatwaves across the world. In total, Camilo Mora, lead author of the study, and his team looked at 1900 fatalities in 36 countries over the last 40 years. The study found that risks associated with heatwaves have increased since 1980.

Mora puts it bluntly, “For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible.” In fact, 30% of the global population now live in conditions where they could experience deadly temperatures 20 days out of the year. That number will increase to 75% by 2100 if we continue down our current path of emissions. Even if we are able to drastically reduce our emissions, 48% of the population will still be at risk.

Mora explains what we are dealing with. “Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture,” he says. “The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone… Finding so many cases of heat-related deaths was mind blowing, especially as they often don’t get much attention because they last for just a few days and then people moved on.”

Examples Around the World

Mora and his colleagues studied the heat and humidity levels during lethal heatwaves to try and determine what conditions must be met in order for a heatwave to turn deadly. In their research, they came across may examples that fit the bill.

In 2003, Europe experienced a deadly heatwave that sparked forest fires across multiple countries. The River Danube in Serbia became so shallow that submerged war tanks from WWII were even found. In total, the death count was estimated between 20,000 and 70,000. Again in 2010, high temperatures in Moscow, Russia contributed to the death of a further 10,000.

Example: Arizona

For a recent example closer to home, we need only look as far as Arizona and the temperatures recorded there this summer. On Monday June 19, the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Phoenix, Arizona as temperatures soared to 119 F (48.3 C).

Similar temperatures were felt throughout the rest of the state and up into California. On that same day, Palm Springs reached 116 F (46.6 C) and Sacramento hit 107 F (41.6 C). The National Weather Service warned that these high temperatures increased the risk dramatically for heat-related illnesses.

When Heatwaves Turn Deadly

Mora’s team looked to see if they could find what conditions make heatwaves fatal. It turns out, temperature is not the only factor. There are reports of people dying from heat-related illnesses in temperatures as moderate as 73.5 F (23 C). Mora explains that it’s the humidity level we need to be concerned with. He says, “Your sweat doesn’t evaporate if it is very humid, so heat accumulates in your body instead. People can then suffer heat toxicity, which is like a sunburn on the inside of your body. The blood rushes to the skin to cool you down so there’s less blood going to the organs. A common killer is when the lining of your gut breaks down and leaks toxins into the rest of your body.”

Another common illness that can also be fatal is hyperthermia - the warm cousin of the more often talked about, hypothermia. Hyperthermia is an excess of heat in the body. It can lead to heat stroke, inflammatory responses and even death.

These lethal conditions have been made worse by the clearing of trees, which naturally provide shade and cooling moisture to dry areas. Mora cautions that adapting to heatwaves by staying inside, issuing government warnings and relying on air conditioning is not a long term solution. He believes we need to do more to prevent heatwaves in the first place. The solution just may lie in curbing climate change.


Rate this article:
No rating
Comments ()Number of views (185)

Author: AThompson

Categories: Blogs, Research, Climate & Weather



Search Jobs


«August 2017»

Car Accident on the Oregon Highway Turns into a Slimy Mess

You won't believe your eyes when you watch this footage of a highway accident gone slimy! An especially fascinating video.

Read more

The Overwhelming Problem of Plastics

Plastic is one of the world's most used and most versatile substances. But new research shows that this reliance is becoming a major problem. 

Read more

Goat on a Rampage Smashes Glass Doors

Offices in Colorado beware! There's a door-smashing goat on the loose and this security footage proves it. Have a look for yourself. 

Read more

Tiny Houses the Answer to Our Environmental Problems?

The Tiny House trend is growing at a rapid pace. And when you take a look at all the benefits these dwellings have to offer, it isn't hard to see why.

Read more

Combating Climate Change with Sustainable Seaweed Farming

You may not realize it but seaweed is actually one of the most underutilized sustainable agriculture products in the world! Take a look. 

Read more

When Push Comes to Shove, A Family of Elephants will Save the Day

Nothing's tighter than the bond of a family of elephants. And when you see how this herd reacts to a fallen baby, you won't be able to say otherwise. 

Read more

Meat Industry Held Responsible for Massive Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico

An record-setting dead zone has just been confirmed in the Gulf of Mexico and it looks like the bulk of the blame rests on the meat industry. 

Read more

Microscopic Tardigrade Considered the Most Indestructible Animal on Earth

Have you heard of an animal that's practically indestructible, impervious to extreme temperatures and can even live in space? That's the tardigrade!

Read more

Deforested Amazon Land Becomes Pastures and Slaughterhouses

A new study shows that as much as 90% of Amazon deforestation will be attributed to just 128 slaughterhouses from 2016-2018. 

Read more

Air Pollution Deaths on the Rise Thanks to Climate Change

A new study shows that a quarter of a million deaths will be attributable to air pollution caused by climate change by 2100. 

Read more

Why Might a Cardinal Go Out of Its Way to Feed Goldfish?

Motherly love from a cardinal to a goldfish? Who knew there could be so much kindness in the animal kingdom?

Read more



    Help Us Go Green
    Help Us Go Green