Public Release: 

New metric mapping top 10 European heat waves predicts strong increase in next 2 decades

Institute of Physics

IMAGE

IMAGE: Scientists have developed a new method to model heat wave magnitude that takes both the duration and the intensity of the heat wave into account. view more

Credit: Pixabay CC0

Scientists have developed a new method to model heat wave magnitude that takes both the duration and the intensity of the heat wave into account.

The new metric--the Heat Wave Magnitude Index daily (HWMId)--indicates that a little-studied heat wave in Finland in 1972 had the same extent and magnitude of the 2003 European heat wave that is considered the second strongest heat wave since 1950.

The findings are published today, 27th November 2015, in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers have also shown that heat waves are likely to increase both in severity and number during the next two decades.

"Even if global mean temperatures don't increase too much, we'll see more extreme heat events" explains Simone Russo, an author of the paper, based at the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy. "These will be hotter, longer, and more frequent."

The new metric also proposes an improvement to the existing index used to quantify heat waves, which does not weight events hotter than the historical maximum 'worse' than events equal to the historical maximum.

"We've introduced a simple mathematical function" continues Russo. "It also us to consider events infinitely hotter than historical maximums--we think it'll be very useful for other scientists in this field."

The researchers also considered the 2015 warm weather, and compared it with the top 10 European heat waves since 1950.

The 2015 summer heat wave had a lower magnitude than that which occurred in the summer of 2003, but was comparable to other heat waves.

"Its largest anomalies [higher than average temperature] and duration were recorded in Switzerland in July, and Germany in August" adds Russo. "Its spatial extent was comparable to a heat wave that occurred in Greece in 2007, one in Central Europe in 1994 and one in Scandinavian last year".

Russo and his colleagues are now in discussions regarding adopting the new model in the international literature. Their next work will be to consider the wider implications of heat waves on health, crops, and finance.

###

Contact

For further information, a full draft of the journal paper, or to talk with one of the researchers, contact IOP Senior Press Officer, Steve Pritchard: Tel: 0117 930 1032 E-mail: steve.pritchard@iop.org. For more information on how to use the embargoed material above, please refer to our embargo policy.

The paper, and an image of the author, can be found here: http://www.dropbox.com/sh/hofa7oxwdpainez/AACEpUStQe3h3pIuzV50pthJa?dl=0

IOP Publishing Journalist Area

The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos

Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform. To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email the IOP Publishing Press team at ioppublishing.press@iop.org, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.

Top ten European heatwaves since 1950 and their occurrence in the coming decades

The published version of the paper "Top ten European heatwaves since 1950 and their occurrence in the coming decades" (Environmental Research Letters 12 124003) will be freely available online from Friday 27 November. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124003.

Environmental Research Letters

ERL covers all environmental science, providing a coherent and integrated approach including research articles, perspectives and reviews. The journal's coverage reflects the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of environmental science and recognizes the wide range of contributions to the development of methods, tools and evaluation strategies relevant to the field.

IOP Publishing

IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide.

IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of the Institute.

Go to ioppublishing.org or follow us @IOPPublishing.

The Institute of Physics

The Institute of Physics is a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.