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Summers will keep getting hotter, Stanford researchers say

Werner Kunz/FlickrStanford scientists say super-hot summers will become the norm.

While California experiences cooler-than-expected temperatures for early June, the rest of the country is reeling under a blazing heat wave.

According to a team of Stanford University researchers, those furnace-hot temperatures soon may become the summer norm for North America. Nations in more tropical zones could experience “the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat.”

And the researchers say this is not a centuries-long forecast.

They’re talking about the next 20 years.

“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the report and Earth system science researcher at Stanford.

Curious about heat waves, how they fit with climate projections and whether they would become “normal,” Diffenbaugh and his team asked themselves, “At what point can we expect the coolest seasonal temperatures to always be hotter than the historically hottest temperatures for that season?”

To answer this, the team members examined more than 50 climate-model experiments. They looked at ones that include computer simulations to predict the coming century, and they looked at those that accurately predicted the last.

According to their results, the tropics are heating up the fastest. Their research shows “up to 70 percent of seasons in the early 21st century (2010 to 2039) exceeding the late 20th-century maximum,” the authors wrote in the study.

Diffenbaugh pointed to looming indicators, including the European heat waves of 2003, which killed 40,000 people, that the Earth is going through this transition now.

The study will be published later this month in the journal Climatic Change.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report

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