Rising global temperatures have meant an onslaught of dangerous heat waves for much of the world during the last decade. As climate change continues to wreak havoc, there is no end in sight—and could even get worse. A new study now shows us which parts of the world might experience the most scorching outcomes thanks to record-breaking heat waves in the future.
The new paper, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, spells bad news for people living in Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Central America. Extreme heat waves are also expected to bludgeon Central Europe, far Eastern Russia, northwestern Argentina, Australia (particularly in Queensland), and the areas around Beijing in China (though these areas are not expected to face as much devastation as the former three).
To be clear, this new study isn’t saying these will be the hottest parts of the world, or are even the most likely to be struck by a record-breaking heatwave. But they are the parts of the world that are the most underprepared for heatwaves, in part because they have yet to really experience such high summer temperatures and are, therefore, less tested. Some of the other factors that went into this study’s assessment of vulnerable communities included growing populations, limited health care, and energy provisions.
“As heatwaves are occurring more often we need to be better prepared,” lead study author Vikki Thompson from the University of Bristol said in a press release. “We identify regions that may have been lucky so far—some of these regions have rapidly growing populations, some are developing nations, some are already very hot. We need to ask if the heat action plans for these areas are sufficient.”
Part of the new findings also caution against the belief that the rest of the world will be fine. Thompson and her co-authors emphasize that statistically implausible extreme heat events can happen anywhere. These kinds of unlikely events have already occurred in nearly a third of the regions assessed where data has been reliably taken since 1959. One of those events was actually the 2021 North American heat wave that devastated the Pacific Coast.
The authors are hopeful the findings might spur some of the regions highlighted here to begin making new plans to protect and withstand a record-breaking heat wave, especially as climate emergencies worsen over the next several years. Of course, it would be smart of all of us to prepare for such possibilities. As the grim saying goes: This is the coldest summer for the rest of your life.