Episodes of extreme heat and drought require reassessment of risk, study finds

The wider effects of extreme events such as heat waves and droughts combined, and their impacts on critical areas, They have the potential to destabilize the socio-economic order.

This is the conclusion of a study published in the journal PLOS Climate by Laura Nigli of the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and her colleagues, who argue for a more systematic risk assessment.

In recent decades, there has been an increase in the frequency and magnitude of simultaneous extreme weather events, such as heat and drought. These events can affect many different properties, areas and systems of the human environment, including the safety, health and well-being of people, although many risk assessments and resilience plans only consider individual events.

To understand how extreme weather events can affect interconnected socio-economic systems, the authors of this study conducted a qualitative network analysis, By examining for the first time a study of eight simultaneous historical episodes of extreme heat and drought in Europe, Africa and Australia.

They then collected examples of interactions across many important services and sectors, including human health, transportation, agriculture and food production, and energy. For example, dry spells have reduced river navigation options, limiting the transport of important goods.

In recent decades, there has been an increase in the frequency and magnitude of simultaneous extreme weather events, such as heat and drought.

At the same time, rail travel was hampered as prolonged heat scorched the tracks. From these analyses, the researchers constructed visualizations of the interactions of simultaneous heat and drought events on these services and regions.

The researchers found that the most important cascading processes and interconnections were concentrated in the health, energy, agriculture and food production sectors. In some cases, intervention measures for one region had a negative impact on other regions.

Future research should focus on response measures in interconnected systems to improve resilience to global heat and drought events, The researchers explain.

According to the authors, “interconnected networks of regions have been identified that cause additional damage and damage to other regions. This multi-level interconnectedness is what makes global extreme event risks so complex and significant. These cascading risks and instead of dividing the risk assessment into individual extreme events, impacts and sectors on the strategies, disrupt these chains of impacts.

Laura Niggli adds that “this study presents unprecedented quantitative information and qualitative understanding”. On the effects of combined heat and drought events on major regions of the world over the past 20 years”.

“This provides new insights into how these impacts ripple through critical systems (health, energy, food production, etc.) and underscores the importance of properly considering the cascade of these effects in adaptation efforts. “, concluded.

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