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ERAU Professor: Worst-Case Climate Forecast Means Hotter & Longer Heatwaves

By on May 26, 2018 in WNDB News

Daytona Beach, FL – An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) professor’s newest findings suggest Floridians will be subject to hotter summers with heatwaves three-times more frequent if levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise.

Professor Shawn M. Milrad and colleagues recently published a peer-reviewed article based on their research on the potential effects of greenhouse gasses on the State of Florida. The research is based on the scenario that the greenhouse gas-concentration will meet the highest potential values calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The article, “Floridian heatwaves and extreme precipitation: future climate projection,” can be found in the journal Climate Dynamics and by clicking here. 

“More extreme heatwaves in Florida would have profound impacts on human health as well as the state’s economy,” said Milrad“Heatwaves are a silent killer, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives each year, yet we tend to focus more on the risks associated with sudden, dramatic events such as hurricanes.”  

According to an ERAU report announcing the discoveries of MilradIndia was struck with 117-degree temperatures in May 2015. The heatwave caused widespread power outages and caused at least 2,500 deaths. This tragic climate event may be a precursor to the effects scientists say could impact Florida within the century. 

Milrad’s research shows that if carbon dioxide levels rise two to three times the current levels, heatwaves between 2070 and 2099 could increase seven to ten degrees.  Based on the IPCC’s worst-case scenario for greenhouse gasses, Milrad and his colleagues came up with four climate possibilities for the years 2050 through 2100 in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa.  

Along with an increase in surface air temperatures, the area can expect deluges after heatwaves if the predictions come true. “Florida’s precipitation, by its convective nature, is quite scattered,” said Milrad. “So it’s difficult to pinpoint which regions might get hit the hardest with precipitation in the future, but a much warmer atmosphere would hold more moisture, so any given precipitation even would likely bring heavier amounts of precipitation.” 

Floridians will not be able to escape the heat when the sun goes down either, according to the IPCC scenario. Temperatures are increasing more quickly at night and nighttime heatwaves are getting hotter and more frequent. Milrad fears that pavement in cities like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando will trap heat and therefore make the heatwaves much worse.  

“Heatwaves can actually take a greater toll on human health at night because they affect how we sleep,” said Milrad. 

“There would also be tremendous pressure on the energy sector, in particular, to generate enough power necessary to run air-conditioners and keep people cool,” said Ajay Raghavendra, ERAU graduate, current Ph. D. student at the University of Albany and lead author of the article.

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