‘Record-shattering’ heatwaves will become even more likely due to climate change

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Heat Haze Distorts Video of Semi-Trucks Driving Down a Utah Interstate Surrounded by Mountains on a Sunny Day
Heatwaves have gripped America this summer. (Getty)

This year has seen the US swelter in a series of blistering, record-breaking heatwaves, and Canada record temperatures of up to 49C.

A new study has shown that humanity is likely to see more extreme heat events in the near future, as climate change takes hold. 

The report, published in Nature Climate Change, shows that, depending on the rate of warming worldwide, it will become increasingly likely to see large jumps in record temperatures. 

The computer modelling study found that heatwaves which smash previous records by roughly 5C would become two to seven times more likely over the next three decades. 

From 2051 to 2080, they will become between three and 21 times more likely, the researchers write. 

Watch: Hidden dangers of heatwaves

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The researchers write that their models project, “not only more intense extremes but also events that break previous records by much larger margins. 

“These record-shattering extremes, nearly impossible in the absence of warming, are likely to occur in the coming decades. 

“We demonstrate that their probability of occurrence depends on warming rate, rather than global warming level, and is thus pathway-dependent.”

Lead researcher Erich Fischer described the current rate of warming as ‘like an athlete on steroids’ in terms of the tendency to break records. 

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Fischer told AFP: “Many places have by far not seen anything close to what’s possible, even in present-day conditions, because only looking at the past record is really dangerous.”

"Because we are in a period of very rapid warming, we need to prepare for more heat events that shatter previous records by large margins.

"The future probability of record-shattering extremes depends on the emissions pathway that gets us to a given level of warming.”

Rowan Sutton, a professor at the University of Reading's National Centre for Atmospheric Science said: "This new study shines a valuable spotlight on the high potential for record-shattering extremes.

"Whilst it may not seem rapid to us, Earth is warming at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of human civilisation."

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This summer has seen a nightmarish heatwave roasting the US, which saw Death Valley in California record what could be the highest reliably recorded temperature in history. 

The US National Weather Service recorded a temperature at Furnace Creek of 54.4C.

This would equal a record set last year - and come close to rival measurements from over a century ago, when measuring was less reliable.

Heatwaves have also enveloped areas including Canada and Siberia, with climate experts warning that computer modelling may have underestimated the impact of climate change. 

Watch: Is climate change education the way forward?

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