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Study: Droughts and heat waves happening at the same time

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Dry months of the year have been getting hotter in large parts of the U.S.

Felicia Chiang is the lead author of a new studyon droughts and climate change, from the University of California-Irvine.

“Essentially we found that droughts are warming faster than the average climate in the southern, the midwestern and the northeastern states of the U.S.,” she says.

In other words – some areas are getting hit by both droughts and heat waves at the same time. A related studyfrom Chiang's colleagues found there's been a statistically significant increase in the number of droughts and heat waves that occur simultaneously.

She says they looked at records from the early and late 20th century, and compared them to models predicting what might happen in the future.

Chiang says simultaneous droughts and heat waves can be a problem for a number of reasons.

“We already know that droughts by themselves have really severe impacts on the urban environment, agriculture, ecology, public health; and heat waves also affect many of the same sectors,” says Chiang.

She says we need to figure out ways to improve our resilience to heat, to protect vulnerable populations and protect crops from damage.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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