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Heatwaves to move toward coasts, study finds
Date:8/29/2012

A new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, suggests that the nature of California heatwaves is changing due to global warming.

Climate researchers Alexander Gershunov and Kristen Guirguis detected a trend toward more humid heatwaves that are expressed very strongly in elevated nighttime temperatures, a trend consistent with climate change projections. Moreover, relative to local warming, the mid-summer heatwaves are getting stronger in generally cooler coastal areas. This carries implications for the millions of Californians living near the ocean whose everyday lives are acclimated to moderate temperatures.

"Heatwaves are stressful rare extremes defined relative to average temperatures," said Gershunov. "We've known for a while that humid heatwaves that are particularly hot at night are on the rise in California as the climate warms. Here, we sharpen the geographic focus to consider sub-regions of the state."

Gershunov added that in this new sharper and "non-stationary" perspective, coastal heatwaves express much more intensely than those inland where the summertime mean warming is stronger. This translates to a variety of impacts on the typically cool, un-acclimated coast.

Classic California heatwaves have been characterized as interior desert and valley events that are hot during the day and marked by dryness and strong nighttime cooling. Gershunov and Guirguis said their analysis of observations and computer model data indicates that the emerging flavor of heatwaves marked by greater humidity, greater expression in nighttime temperatures, and greater expression in coastal areas relative to the generally cooler coast are intensifying and will keep intensifying in coming decades. Both coastal and desert heatwaves will continue to be more common as climate changes relative to the past, but the desert heatwaves are becoming less intense relative to strong average warming observed and projected for the inte
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Contact: Robert Monroe
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-822-4487
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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