Decades of crushing heat waves await U.S., scientists say

Liz Goodwin
The Upshot

For much of the country this week, it felt as if the blistering heat would never end. And now a university study reports that in the broader scheme of things, that may just be the case.

Scientists at Stanford University predict that more crushing heat waves will hit the United States over the next three decades, according to the school's news service.

Stanford News' write-up of the study quotes study author Noah Diffenbaugh's warning:

"In the next 30 years, we could see an increase in heat waves like the one now occurring in the Eastern United States or the kind that swept across Europe in 2003 that caused tens of thousands of fatalities. Those kinds of severe heat events also put enormous stress on major crops like corn, soybean, cotton and wine grapes, causing a significant reduction in yields."

Stanford's write-up points out that according to a recent NASA report, the decade of 2000-09 was the warmest on record.

Increased carbon dioxide emissions will sustain the warming trend for decades, the Stanford scientists say.

Using multiple climate models, the scientists concluded that as many as five intense heat waves are likely to hit the western and central United States between 2020 and 2029. The following decade is expected to be even hotter.

The complete study can be found in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (subscription only). ScienceDaily reprinted Stanford's write-up of the study.