Belgium is among the countries at highest risk of extreme heatwaves

Belgium is among the countries at highest risk of extreme heatwaves
Credit: Hatim Kaghat / Belga

Belgium is one of the world's "most at-risk regions" for high-impact heatwaves, a study conducted by researchers from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, and Oxford has concluded.

The study, published in the prestigious Nature academic journal, concluded that heat waves were occurring much more frequently globally and that many regions were likely to be exposed to particularly severe heatwaves in the future.

The researchers conclude that far-eastern Russia, Central America, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Central Europe, north-western Argentina, Queensland in Australia, and Beijing in China will be particularly affected.

"Our global assessment of reanalysis data shows that statistically implausible extremes have occurred in 31% of regions between 1959 and 2021, with no apparent spatial or temporal pattern. It appears that such extremes could occur anywhere and at any time," the researchers warn.

Benelux and Germany risk

Three European countries will be particularly affected by heatwaves. Notably, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In concrete terms, the region will experience a record-breaking heat event every 91.4 years.

This region’s population is scheduled to swell by 1.15%, also increasing the potential impact of catastrophes. Heatwaves in Belgium claimed the lives of between 1,200-1,300 people in 2003. There are fears that as populations increase, so too will the death toll from record periods of heat.

"Beijing, Hebei, and Tianjin provinces of China, and Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium are vulnerable in terms of population number but, as developed countries, are more likely to have heat plans to mitigate potential impacts," the researchers noted.

Belgium experienced an exceptionally late September heatwave this year, with temperatures exceeding 25℃ for the fifth consecutive day in Uccle last Friday. This summer broke several temperature records, with this summer being hotter and wetter than the average for the past 30 years. Notably, this June was the hottest on record since records began in 1833.

The data suggests that new records will soon be broken in Belgium, as well as other countries across the world. Global warming is currently on track to increase temperatures globally by 1.5℃, compared with pre-industrial levels, by 2030.

“In conclusion, we have identified regions where record-breaking heat extremes are statistically more likely to occur… we find that temperature extremes that appear statistically implausible… could occur in any region globally,” the study concluded.

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