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Columbia Energy Exchange

The Science Behind Extreme Heat


Radley Horton

Research Scholar, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Relentless extreme heat is gripping regions around the world. Spring and summer brought numerous crippling heat waves to Europe – smashing temperature records, killing more than a thousand people, and buckling infrastructure. 

India and Pakistan experienced one of the hottest springs ever, with heat waves in March and April hurting crop yields, and putting more than a billion people at risk.

And here in the US, heat waves are scorching large swaths of the country, exacerbating a western megadrought.

Every year, hot, humid conditions that can kill people are getting more likely. And scientists are getting better at attributing specific heat waves to human-caused climate change.

This week, host Bill Loveless talks with Dr. Radley Horton, a Research Professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. 

Radley’s research focuses on climate extremes, tail risks, climate impacts, and adaptation. He was a lead author for the Third National Climate Assessment.

Bill spoke with Radley about this year’s brutal conditions that have hit Europe, North America, and Asia over the last few months. They discussed his research into heat-related mortality, where regions are becoming most vulnerable to extreme weather, and what it all means for our ability to adapt.

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