EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

On exposure of land area and population to heat waves and cold waves in a changing climate

Alexander Hampshire1, Neven Fuckar1, Clare Heaviside2, and Myles Allen1
Alexander Hampshire et al.
  • 1University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 2University College London, London, UK

As climate changes – potentially to a warmer state than any time during the evolution of humans – heat extremes threatening human health, global ecosystem and socio-economic fabric of our society are occurring at increasing frequency and intensity in most parts of the world. This study examines changes in global land area and population exposed to both tails of temperature distribution in changing climate since heat and cold exposure is directly associated with a range of health impacts and affects thermal comfort and occupational capacity. We first utilise the latest ECMWF atmospheric reanalysis, ERA5, to examine changes over the satellite era (since 1979), and then we explore the equivalent changes in CMIP6 archive of historical runs and future projections. Besides daily maximum and minimum of dry-bulb surface air temperature (SAT), we also consider daily extremes of the universal thermal climate index (UTCI) that includes the influence of humidity, wind and radiation encapsulating the synergetic heat exchanges between the environment and the human body. Our analysis dissects changes in spatial and temporal exposure to both heat waves and cold waves and presents metrics contrasting changes in the opposite extremes of SAT and UTCI distributions. We assess the significance of the observed, modelled and projected changes and relate them to external drivers of climate change.

How to cite: Hampshire, A., Fuckar, N., Heaviside, C., and Allen, M.: On exposure of land area and population to heat waves and cold waves in a changing climate, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14855,, 2021.