Whenever two climate extremes overlap, they lead to a devastating impact.
Climate extremes cause huge damage to environment and society. But a combination of two extremes can be even more devastating.
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According to a study published in PNAS, droughts and heat waves overlapping have significantly increased over the years and their too often concurrence is leading to more severe conditions than ever before.
“Despite an apparent hiatus in rising temperature and no significant trend in droughts, we show a substantial increase in concurrent droughts and heat waves across most parts of the United States and a statistically significant shift in the distribution of concurrent extremes.” Study cites.
For the study, researchers have analyzed the drought and heat condition from 1960 to 2010 and noticed that drought and heat are more often overlapping each other over the years. The more extreme a heat wave, the more impact drought will have.
The trend is more observed in West and Southeast parts of United States, where the most severe heat waves overlapped with the drought at least 50 percent more in the recent 2 decades than the earlier two decades from 1960 to 1980.
California’s four year epic drought is an excellent example to explain the whole idea. Amir AghaKouchak, a civil engineer at University of California, Irvine and the lead author of the study says that California drought “is a serious drought but it is not that extreme.” It’s a kind of drought that occurs about once every 25 years because temperature was often moderate throughout the period. But if two extremes, temperature and drought combine together, the drought will become a once in 200 year event.
In the study, researchers defined drought as a time when rain or snow was about 80% below than average while heat wave is when temperature is higher than any warm season for at least three consecutive days.
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Research suggests that these two events are more likely to happen at the same time in recent decades and when they do “they could lead to a compound extreme even with significant impact.”