The 2021 western North America heat wave among the most extreme events ever recorded globally

Thompson, Vikki; Kennedy-Asser, Alan T.; Vosper, Emily; Lo, Y.T. Eunice; Huntingford, Chris; Andrews, Oliver; Collins, Matthew; Hegerl, Gabrielle C.; Mitchell, Dann. 2022 The 2021 western North America heat wave among the most extreme events ever recorded globally. Science Advances, 8 (18), eabm6860. 10, pp.

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In June 2021, western North America experienced a record-breaking heat wave outside the distribution of previously observed temperatures. While it is clear that the event was extreme, it is not obvious whether other areas in the world have also experienced events so far outside their natural variability. Using a novel assessment of heat extremes, we investigate how extreme this event was in the global context. Characterizing the relative intensity of an event as the number of standard deviations from the mean, the western North America heat wave is remarkable, coming in at over four standard deviations. Throughout the globe, where we have reliable data, only five other heat waves were found to be more extreme since 1960. We find that in both reanalyses and climate projections, the statistical distribution of extremes increases through time, in line with the distribution mean shift due to climate change. Regions that, by chance, have not had a recent extreme heat wave may be less prepared for potentially imminent events.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2375-2548
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 19 Jul 2022 11:48 +0 (UTC)

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