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Global Health
August 15, 2017

Lethal Heat Waves Expected to Increase

JAMA. 2017;318(7):603. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10120

Heat-related deaths around the world will increase as deadly heat waves become more common with rising global temperatures that are associated with climate change, according to 2 new reports.

In the first study published in Nature Climate Change, an international group of investigators found that 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days or more per year. To predict the likelihood of future deadly heat waves, the researchers identified 783 lethal heat waves in 164 cities across 36 countries that occurred between 1980 and 2014, most recorded in developed countries at mid-latitudes, including New York, Chicago, Beijing, Sao Paolo, and Moscow. By analyzing the climatic conditions of these lethal heat events, the investigators identified a threshold beyond which daily mean temperatures and relative humidity became deadly. Their findings suggest that by 2100, even if greenhouse gases are aggressively reduced, at least 48% of the global population will face deadly heat waves, and if emissions are not curtailed, 74% of people around the world could face deadly heat waves.