Study co-authors Kristen Guirguis and Alexander Gershunov
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 interior of the state.
The study, "California heat waves in the present and future," will appear in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.The "non-stationary" approach reflects an acknowledgment by scientists that what has been considered extreme heat is gradually becoming commonplace. The rate of climate warming necessitates a measure of extreme heat relative to the changing average climate rather than to historical climate norms. So, instead of defining heatwaves relative to fixed temperature thresholds, the researchers projected heatwave intensity against a backdrop of increasing average summertime temperature. This causes the definition of heatwaves - temperatures in the warmest 5 percent of summertime conditions - to evolve with the changing climate and reflect extreme conditions relevant to the climate of the time.
Robert Monroe | EurekAlert!
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