Their research goes beyond simply identifying the countries where heat waves are most likely to occur. Instead, they’re taking into account a range of factors, including socioeconomics, population growth, energy networks, and healthcare services. This comprehensive approach has led them to conclude that countries such as Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Central America are most at risk.
But it’s not just developing nations that are vulnerable. Even places like Beijing and Central Europe, with their large populations, are at risk from the damaging effects of heat waves. The researchers behind the study are calling for more to be done to prepare for the potentially devastating impact of these events.
One of the challenges is that we don’t know exactly what’s coming. The future is likely to be worse than what we’ve seen up until this point, which means we need to be over-prepared for events that seem almost inconceivable right now. The researchers argue that policymakers and governments need to prepare for events beyond current records, particularly with trends caused by anthropogenic climate change enhancing the probability of extremes.
To make their assessments, the researchers used the latest climate models and global population data. They also used a method called extreme value statistics to determine the chances of extreme climate events repeating. According to their analysis, statistically implausible heat waves – extreme enough not to be predicted by models – have happened in 31 percent of the 136 regions covered by the study over the last 60 years or so.
As climate scientist Vikki Thompson from the University of Bristol points out, “As heat waves are occurring more often we need to be better prepared.”