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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Heat wave temperatures to soar in decades


Future shock: Heat wave temperatures to soar in decades

Washington: During the European heat wave of 2003 that killed tens of thousands, the temperature in parts of France hit 40°C. Nearly 15,000 people died in that country alone. During the Chicago heat wave of 1995, the mercury spiked above 41°C and about 600 people died.
    In a few decades, people will look back at those heat waves "and we will laugh", said Andreas Sterl, author of a new study. "We will find (those temperatures) lovely and cool."
    Sterl's computer model shows by the end of the century, high temperatures for once-in-a-generation heat waves will rise twice as fast as everyday average temperatures. Chicago, for example, would reach 46°C in such an event by 2100. Paris could near 42.7°C with Lyon coming closer to 45.5°C .
    Sterl, who is with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, projects temperatures for rare heat waves around the world in a study soon to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. His numbers are blistering because of the drying-out effect of a warming world. Most global warming research focuses on average daily temperatures instead of these extremes, which cause greater damage.
    His study projects a peak of 47°C for Los Angeles and 43°C for Atlanta by 2100; that's 5 degrees higher than the current records for those cities. Kansas City faces the prospect of a 46.6°C heat wave, with its current alltime high at 43°C, according to the National Climactic Data Center.
    A few cities, such as Phoenix, which once hit 50°C and is projected to have heat waves of 48.8°C, have already reached these extreme temperatures once or twice. But they would be hitting those numbers a little more often as the world heats up over time.
    For New York, it would only be a slight jump from the all-time record of 40°C at John F Kennedy airport to the projected 41°C. It could be worse. Delhi, India is expected to hit 49°C; Belem, Brazil, 49.4°C and Baghdad, 50°C .

    These are temperatures that are dangerous, said University of Wisconsin environmental health professor Jonathan Patz. And by 2050, heat waves will be 3 to 5 degrees hotter than now "and probably be longerlasting," Sterl said. By mid-century, southern France's extreme heat waves should be around 44°C and then near 48°C by the end of the century, Sterl's climate models predict. AP

    Penguins falling
victim to showers
Washington: Global warming is leading to unusual epic rains in Antarctica, which is in turn causing the region's penguins to freeze to death.
    According to a report in National Geographic News, since Antarctica's young Adelie and gentoo penguins are not yet equipped with water-repellent feathers, they freeze to death when the mercury dipped below the freezing point. "Many, many, many of them—thousands of them—were dying," said explorer Jon Bowermaster, who had been in the region on an expedition funded in part by the National Geographic Society.
    The experience, he added, painted a clear and grim picture of the impact of global climate change. "It's not just melting ice. It's actually killing these cute little birds that are so popular in the movies," he said. ANI


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