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Heat Story Insight

Author: Pedro Vargas

Each year we have been feeling an increasing number of days that are hotter than what we are used to. Climate change and carbon emissions are the big culprits for this change in temperature, yet have you ever stopped to think how extremely hot days and heatwaves will be in the next 5, 10, or even 50 years? 

The way that our society will respond to climate change and all its causes will drastically affect our future and define the many risks that climate change brings. A changing climate requires that we act to reduce our impact and to be prepared to face its consequences.  

A Vancouver based software company, Minerva Intelligence, launched climate85, a product, that provides information on how these recent more intense extreme heat events will evolve depending on different climate change scenarios.  climate85 heat data forecasts the number of expected high intensity heat days (above 35º) there will be each year across major Canadian cities. The data is made available through climate85 API, the first climate risk API tool made available to Canadians.  

This increase in extreme heat days can manifest itself in many manners, ranging from whole summer months being almost continuous extreme heatwaves to hotter Springs and Autumns. If you live in Toronto, for example, instead of having a few weeks of very hot days, it can mean multiple straight weeks of extreme heat days of 35º or higher temperature, and even higher “felt” temperature if you take in consideration humidity and other factors. The temperature being felt by residents possibly reaching well into the 40ºs. 

If we follow our current trend, some cities like Winnipeg and Toronto will experience entire months with extreme heat within the next few decades. Meanwhile, a more decisive response to climate change (light gray bar in figure below) can see the temperatures rising much slower, reaching only about half of the expected heat days of the worst case (business-as-usual) scenario (orange bar in figure below). 

Number of days above average maximum temperature for different bi-decadal intervals for three different climate change scenarios (shared socioeconomic pathways-SSPs) and the historic record. The dark gray bars indicate the historic data, the light gray bars indicate the best-case scenario (SSP1), orange bars the worst-case scenario (SSP5), and blue bars indicate an intermediate scenario (SSP2). Between 1980-2000 and 2000-2020 the number of heat days have doubled. For the 2020-2040 and 2040-2060 bi-decadal periods there will be further increase. For the 2060-2080 period we start to see differences between the scenarios; for SSP1 the number of heat days levels off, for SSP2 there will be a steady increase, and for SSP5 the number of heat days will keep doubling, offering a glimpse of a very grim future. 

Canadians will feel the repercussions of more frequent and intense extreme heat days as they can, and will, heavily impact our health, energy supply, economy, and organizations, both private and public. Climate risk is something our government and private sector should pay immediate attention to as it will heavily impact the way we live and do business in the short and long term.

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