Study shows climate change has made heat waves longer

Since 1979, global heat waves are moving 20% more slowly and happen 67% more often.

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World News

March 29, 2024 - 2:38 PM

The cracked earth of the Sau reservoir is visible north of Barcelona, Spain, March 20, 2023. Annual heat records were broken in 2023, the European climate agency said Tuesday, Jan. 9. Photo by (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

Climate change is making giant heat waves crawl slower across the globe, and they are baking more people for a longer time with higher temperatures over larger areas, a new study finds.

Since 1979, global heat waves are moving 20% more slowly — meaning more people stay hot longer — and they are happening 67% more often, according to a study in Friday’s Science Advances. The study found the highest temperatures in the heat waves are warmer than 40 years ago and the area under a heat dome is larger.

Studies have shown heat waves worsening before, but this one is more comprehensive and concentrates heavily on not just temperature and area, but how long the high heat lasts and how it travels across continents, said study co-authors and climate scientists Wei Zhang of Utah State University and Gabriel Lau of Princeton University.

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