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Increasing heat risk in China's urban agglomerations
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  • Guwei Zhang,
  • Gang Zeng,
  • Xin-Zhong Liang,
  • Cunrui Huang
Guwei Zhang
NUIST Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology

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Gang Zeng
Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology
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Xin-Zhong Liang
University of Maryland, College Park
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Cunrui Huang
Sun Yat-sen University
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A heat danger day is defined as an extreme when the heat stress index (a combined temperature and humidity measure) exceeding 41 ℃, warranting public heat alerts. This study assesses future heat risk (i.e., heat danger days times the population at risk) based on the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) projections. In recent decades (1995-2014) China’s urban agglomerations (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, Middle Yangtze River, Chongqing-Chengdu, and Pearl River Delta) experienced no more than 3 heat danger days per year, but this number is projected to increase to 3-13 days during the population explosion period (2041-2060) under the high-emission pathways (SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5). This increase will result in approximately 260 million people in these agglomerations facing more than 3 heat danger days annually, accounting for 19% of the total population of China, and will double the current level of overall heat risk. During the period 2081-2100, there will be 8-67 heat danger days per year, 60-90% of the urban agglomerations will exceed the current baseline number, and nearly 310 million people (39% of the total China population) will be exposed to the danger, with the overall heat risk exceeding 18 times the present level. The greatest risk is projected in the Pearl River Delta region with 67 heat danger days to occur annually under SSP5-8.5. With 65 million people (68% of the total population) experiencing increased heat danger days, the overall heat risk in the region will swell by a factor of 50. Conversely, under the low-emission pathways (SSP1-2.6 and SSP2-4.5), the annual heat danger days will remain similar to the present level or increase slightly. The result indicates the need to develop strategic plans to avoid the increased heat risk of urban agglomerations under high emission-population pathways.
01 Jun 2021Published in Environmental Research Letters volume 16 issue 6 on pages 064073. 10.1088/1748-9326/ac046e