New research predicts heat waves in Canada could become more frequent — and five times more deadly

In the midst of a particularly hot summer, new research predicts heat waves will become more frequent in Canada — and up to five times more deadly.

More than 80 people died from extreme heat in Quebec alone last month, and this concerning trend is only expected to get worse, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. The question is, by how much?

“There is risk of heat waves around the world and because of this, we will see increased mortality,” said Antonio Gasparrini, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-authored the study.

A heat wave occurs when a high-pressure system — causing a dome of warm air — remains anchored over a region. These domes often prevent low-pressure systems, or rain, from entering the area, causing extended hot and humid conditions. While countries near the equator will experience the most severe spikes in weather, traditionally temperate and cold regions will also be affected.

According to a statement on the Government of Canada website, the average annual temperature in Canada has warmed by 1.6 degrees over the period of 1948 to 2013. While countries near the equator will experience higher temperatures, Canadians are less adapted to hot weather, putting them at risk of heat-related deaths.

“Certain temperatures can be optimal for some populations while hindering others,” Gasparrini said. “It depends on physical climatization.”

The study used a mathematical equation to predict that Canada could see five times more heat-related deaths between 2031 and 2080, compared to numbers based on statistics from 1984 to 2015.

Researchers collected weather data and non-accidental death data for 21 Canadian cities over those 30 years to estimate how many people died during heat waves. Then they predicted how high, medium and low variations of population growth, as well as four possible climate futures, could increase the number of heat-related deaths. A 400 per cent increase is based on a worst-case scenario, while a best-case scenario would see a 25 per cent increase.

Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said climate experts worry about a surge in heat waves over the coming decades.

“We must convince people to prepare for heat waves that have not occurred historically, but that are for sure coming due to climate change,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

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This summer, Canada has gotten a taste of a world with warmer weather.

All provinces have been under intermittent Environment Canada-issued heat warnings over the past month. And earlier this week, the Atlantic region reached sweltering temperatures in the high 30s. Now, parts of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also under heat warnings.

From July 1 to July 8, temperatures in southern Quebec soared to 35 degrees C, nearly 10 degrees above the provincial monthly average. At least 53 people died in Montreal and another 34 elsewhere …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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