- Documents and publications
Heat waves: a hot topic in climate change research
In this study, the authors analyzed the rapidly growing scientific literature dealing with heat waves. No summarizing overview has been published on this literature hitherto. The researchers developed a suitable search query to retrieve the relevant literature covered by the Web of Science (WoS) as complete as possible and to exclude irrelevant literature (n = 8,011 papers). The time evolution of the publications shows that research dealing with heat waves is a highly dynamic research topic, doubling within about 5 years.
An analysis of the thematic content reveals the most severe heat wave events within the recent decades (1995 and 2003), the cities and countries/regions affected (USA, Europe, and Australia), and the ecological and medical impacts (drought, urban heat islands, excess hospital admissions, and mortality). An alarming finding is that the limit for survivability may be reached at the end of the twenty-first century in many regions of the world due to the fatal combination of rising temperatures and humidity levels measured as “wet-bulb temperature” (WBT). Risk estimation and future strategies for adaptation to hot weather are major political issues. We identified 104 citation classics, which include fundamental early works of research on heat waves and more recent works (which are characterized by a relatively strong connection to climate change).