Research News

Remote Sensing Reveals Alarming Increase in Global Heat Waves in 2018

Dec 25, 2023

The warming world has witnessed a disturbing rise in the frequency, severity, and duration of heat waves, leading to significant societal and environmental consequences at both local and global scales. 

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Earth Observation and Geoinformation,researchers  from the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals employed remote sensing technology to investigate the unprecedented surge in heat wave events across the globe in 2018. 

To overcome the limitations of traditional site observations, the study utilized spatial datasets of land surface temperature (LST) derived from AQUA TIR sensors. The researchers employed a 15-year daily maximum LST dataset, employing a relative threshold method based on probability density function analysis to identify heat wave events, further analyze the spatial variation of annual heat waves using heat wave numbers (HWN), the frequency of heat wave days (HWF), and the amplitude of heat wave impacts (HWA).

The findings revealed a stark increase in the number and duration of heat wave events in 2018 compared to the previous decade, particularly in low and middle latitudes where warmer land surfaces prevailed. Of concern, many heat wave events were observed in environmentally fragile regions and densely populated areas. Urban regions experienced the most severe impacts, with the largest HWA reaching an alarming 45.5 ± 6.9℃. 

The study identified seven hot spot regions influenced by heat waves, with the majority located around the latitude 30°N and the latitude 30°S. Strikingly, extreme heat wave events in the Southern Hemisphere predominantly occurred in winter and spring, while those in the Northern Hemisphere were more prevalent in summer and autumn.

The researchers also established a connection between dry climates and the occurrence of heat waves, emphasizing the compound consequences arising from the interplay of heat waves and drought. The study highlights the capability of remote sensing datasets to provide continuous, global coverage of heat wave changes, offering insights for preventing and mitigating the impacts of extreme heat events on both human populations and the natural environment.

These findings underscore the importance of leveraging remote sensing technologies to monitor and understand the evolving dynamics of heat waves, ultimately contributing to informed strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts on a planetary scale.