Heat waves are occurring more frequently across the globe and are likely to increase in intensity and duration under climate change. Much work has already been completed on attributing causes of observed heat waves and on modeling their future occurrence, but such efforts are often lacking in exploration of spatial relationships. Based on principles of landscape ecology, we utilized fragmentation metrics to examine the spatiotemporal changes in heat wave shape and occurrence across North America. This methodological approach enables us to examine area, shape, perimeter, and other key metrics. The application of these shape metrics to high-resolution historical (1950–2013) climate data reveals that the total number and spatial extent of heat waves are increasing over the continent, but at an individual heat wave patch level, they are becoming significantly smaller in extent and more complex in shape, indicating that heat waves have become a more widespread and fragmented phenomena.
Climatic Change – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 23, 2018
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