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Scientists sound alarm over weather events 'rapidly increasing' globally: 'Tropical coastlines were the hardest hit'

Heat waves and coastal floods are increasingly striking at the same time.

Heat waves and coastal floods are increasingly striking at the same time.

Photo Credit: iStock

Compound weather events, where coastal flooding and extreme heat pummel shores simultaneously, are on the rise worldwide, according to Scientific American.

A recent study revealed that these devastating one-two punches affected about 88% of global coastlines between 1979 and 2017, with a marked increase in frequency since 1998.

As Earth's fever temperature climbs, experts warn we must bolster our defenses against this intensifying threat.

What's happening?

Heat waves and coastal floods are increasingly striking at the same time, according to the new study published in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment. These "compound" events affected about 88% of global coastlines between 1979 and 2017.

"Tropical coastlines were the hardest hit," Scientific American noted. These regions experienced over 70% of the compound flooding and extreme heat, despite only accounting for half the world's coastlines.

The study also found a significant uptick in the frequency of these devastating one-two punches since 1998.

Why are compound coastal threats concerning?

Imagine your neighborhood is flooded and the power goes out. Now picture sweltering in that dangerous scenario without air conditioning, like many did after Hurricane Ida in 2021.

As our planet overheats, the atmosphere and ocean temperatures rise in tandem, worsening both heat waves and coastal flood risks. Together, they can turn deadly.

Global coastlines may face up to about 38 combined flood and heat wave days per year between 2025 and 2049 as the planet warms, said Scientific American. That's 31 more days of compound extreme weather than the 1989–2013 average. Developing tropical nations with limited resources to adapt could suffer most.

What's being done about compound coastal threats?

More research is underway to identify the links between Earth's rising fever and the surge of compound coastal extremes. Experts say this data is key for crafting adaptation strategies.

Meanwhile, nations worldwide recommitted to rapidly slashing the dirty pollution overheating our planet at the 2022 UN climate conference. While much work remains to be done to avert the worst warming scenarios, the renewed pledges offer hope.

What can I do to help protect my coastal community?

Building climate resilience starts at home. Prepare for compound flooding and heat by:

• Developing an emergency plan for power/AC outages
Insulating your home to better withstand extreme temperatures
• Advocating for resilient, flood-protected energy systems
• Reducing your carbon footprint by eating less red meat

Every action, small or large, helps shore up our defenses against compound coastal extremes. Together, we can work to keep our coastlines — and our families — safe from climate-fueled floods and heat waves.

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