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Scientists identify the most extreme heatwaves ever recorded globally

A new study has revealed the most intense heatwaves ever across the world and remarkably some of these went almost unnoticed decades ago. The research was led by the University of Bristol and showed that heatwaves are projected to get hotter in future as climate change worsens.

The western North America heatwave last summer was record-breaking with an all-time Canadian high of 49.6 °C in Lytton. It was an increase of 4.6 °C from the previous peak. The new study was published in Science Advances. The study uncovered five other heatwaves around the world which were even more severe.

Heatwaves are one of the most devastating extreme weather events. The western North America heatwave was the deadliest weather event ever in Canada. The associated raging wildfires also led to extensive infrastructure damage and loss of crops.

But the study calculated how extreme heatwaves were relative to the local temperature and showed the top three hottest-ever in the respective regions were in Southeast Asia in April 1998. Scientists also used sophisticated climate model projections to anticipate heatwave trends in the rest of this century.

The modeling indicated levels of heatwave intensity are set to rise in line with increasing global temperatures. The highest local temperatures do not necessarily cause the biggest impacts but they are often related. Improving understanding of climate extremes and where they have occurred can help prioritize measures to help tackle this in the most vulnerable regions


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