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Three times more extreme heat by 2040, says KU Leuven

Sep 12, 2017

Starting around 2040, larger cities such as Brussels and Antwerp will experience extreme temperatures for more than 17 days per year, about three times more than the current average, according to research carried out by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

Temperatures in cities rise because cement and asphalt attracts and retains heat. Industrial activities and denser populations also generate heat. In addition, cities have less green space and water, both of which help cool the environment.

The researchers of KU Leuven’s geography department studied Belgian climate with computer simulations to map the differences between cities and more rural areas. While at the beginning of the 21st century, cities saw an average of six days of extreme heat per year, that number will rise to some 17 days by 2040 because of climate change, said the scientists. In rural areas, they predict seven such days.

To be considered a heatwave, there must be three consecutive days with a maximum temperature of more than 30 degrees and a minimum temperature of more than 18 degrees.

According to the researchers, who have published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters, the phenomenon will lead to a higher mortality rate, reduced work performance and higher energy consumption in cities. They have called on local governments to concentrate on preserving green spaces and water, as well as limit paving in the larger cities. In terms of development, the researchers said that high-rises take up less surface area.

Photo courtesy Visit Antwerp

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