Future heatwaves threaten to be more extreme even if nations reduce the amount of man-made pollutants from car exhaust fumes and power plants. Weather researchers at the University of Edinburgh have warned polluting particles in the air are having an effect on heatwave forecasts. But dire computer models for a cleaner and less polluted environment suggest the effects could be the opposite of what is expected. According to the UK Met Office, we are already seeing the effects of climate change and global warming on temperatures.
The weather forecaster said warms spells in the summer are already longer and hotter than 70 years ago.
Professor David Stevenson, of Edinburgh’s School of Geoscience, has now urged for more action in tackling the heatwave threat.
But the call to arms comes with a catch – cutting pollution could disrupt the natural processes in place to protect us from severe heat.
He said: “We desperately need to improve air quality. However, our results suggest that in doing so, we may inadvertently worsen heatwaves.
“Air pollution and climate change are inextricably linked, and we need to develop smart pollution control policies that these links into account.”
The dire conclusion was presented in a paper published by PhD researcher Alcide Zhao in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
According to the weather study, cutting the amount of polluting particles in the air could impact the natural flow of cloud formation.
This, in turn, could result in worse heatwaves in some parts of the world where cloud coverage would otherwise reflect harsh sunlight back into space.
READ MORE: Temperatures to ROCKET – run up to summer begins
The Edinburgh scientists fear this would cause peak temperatures in the day to increase.
We desperately need to improve air quality
Professor David Stevenson, University of Edinburgh
The study reads: “Effects of aerosols on clouds such as changes in cloudiness and other rapid adjustments – e.g. changes in vertical temperature profiles – however, are still poorly represented in present generation climate models, leading to large uncertainties in future heatwave projections.
“Therefore, we call the attention of the community to prioritize efforts into reducing uncertainties involved in aerosol‐cloud interactions, in order to get reliable projections of future climate extremes, as well as effective strategies for climate risk management.”
According to the Met Office, climate change risks significantly increasing the likelihood of record-breaking heatwaves by the year 2050.
The Met Office said: “Several studies show the strong evidence that human-induced climate change is increasing the risk of heatwaves.
“For example, extremely warm summers in Europe, such as was seen during the European heat wave of 2003 which was responsible for 2,000 excess deaths in the UK, are now expected to happen twice a decade compared to twice a century in the early 2,000s.”
And as a more recent example, 2018 has the joint hottest summer record in England, along with records set in 1976, 2003 and 2006.
These record-setting conditions were made at least 30 times more likely as a result of climate change, the Met Office has claimed.
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