Heat waves in Spain will increase 104% in thirty years

05/14/2021 at 9:04 AM CEST

The climatic event known as ‘heat waves’ (extremely hot periods) will intensify significantly in the coming years in Spain, but especially on the Mediterranean side. The first detailed investigation on the expected evolution of this phenomenon in Spain shows that the increase in its intensity will reach 104% between now and 2050, which will reach 150% on the Mediterranean coast.

A study on climate projections in which researchers from the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University of Vigo take part foresees an increase in the intensity of heat waves of 104% for the near future (2021-2050) throughout the Peninsula Iberian.

The most important changes pointed out in this research, which has just been published in the international journal Atmospheric Research, occur in the central and eastern region of the country, reaching 150% for the Mediterranean coast and the Pyrenees.

The authors of this work, including Nieves Lorenzo, Alejandro Díaz-Poso and Dominic Royé, estimate an increase in heat waves with trends of 6% to 8% per decade, which will lead to a greater impact on the human being , an increase in energy demand and implications for fire risk.

This type of climatic events can be characterized by four dimensions: frequency, duration, intensity and spatial extent. In fact, the ‘Excess Heat Factor’ (EHF) factor is applied for the first time in this study, a parameter developed by Australian scientists that takes into account both intensity and effects on the human body.

Previous research has already shown that EHF could be used to assess the effects of these extreme heat events on the health of the population (Royé et al. 2020).

«The EHF index is very useful to detect this type of extreme events, which makes it a tool to contribute to decision-making to minimize the negative impacts of heat waves on public health or on other susceptible sectors, such as agriculture, forestry or energy ”, says the University of Santiago de Compostela in a note.

The projections indicate that the areas that show greater intensity do not coincide with areas where heat wave events last longer.

For both 1971-2000 and 2021-2050, heat waves in the mountainous and western peninsular regions are characterized by a higher EHF, but a shorter duration than those in the southeast peninsular zone and, in general, on the coast. Mediterranean.

The main reason for this spatial pattern, the authors of the publication emphasize, lies in the rapid transport of soft air masses from the Atlantic Ocean to the west of the Iberian Peninsula.

The average extent of heat waves for the period 1971-2000 increased by 1.71% per decade, while the increase in maximum extent is even greater, at 4.3% per decade.

This trend is expected to continue in the near future, with increases ranging between 6% and 8% per decade for the maximum extension value. The results point to a significant increase in the intensity, frequency, duration and extent of heat waves in Spain for the 21st century.

Reference study:

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