Special Report

The Places on Earth Most at Risk for Record Heat Waves

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3. Afghanistan
> Time elapsed since record heat wave: 84 years
> Current record temperature: 100.0 °F
> 1-in-100 worst-case scenario temperature: 100.2 °F
> Population, 2020: 38.8 million
> Projected population growth by 2050: 146.0%

Afghanistan is ill prepared for the unprecedented heat that will strike its growing and impoverished population. The researchers of the study on the most at-risk regions in the world for intense heat waves identify Afghanistan as the “region of most concern” because of its lack of resources, steep population growth, and the likelihood of “far more extreme heat waves.” Twenty-six of the country’s 34 provinces are classified as having a “medium” or “high” likelihood of experiencing extreme heat resulting in heat stress within the next five years, according to World Bank-affiliated natural hazard tracker ThinkHazard.

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2. Central America
> Time elapsed since record heat wave: 78 years
> Current record temperature: 97.2 °F
> 1-in-100 worst-case scenario temperature: 97.9 °F
> Population, 2020: 45.5 million
> Projected population growth by 2050: 105.0%

Temperatures in many parts of the seven countries between Mexico and Colombia hit 104 degrees in April 2017. Extreme heat in recent years has ravaged farmland and exacerbated food insecurity in this largely agrarian region. “The current record is further below the statistical maximum — suggesting the region could experience a large jump in the record,” say the authors of the study on the most at-risk regions in the world for intense heat waves. In addition, several of the countries in the region also struggle with economic and social problems that would further affect their ability to prepare for extreme heat waves.

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1. Russia, far eastern
> Time elapsed since record heat wave: 71 years
> Current record temperature: 90.3 °F
> 1-in-100 worst-case scenario temperature: 91.2 °F
> Population, 2020: 1.4 million
> Projected population growth by 2050: 101.0%

Temperatures in the Russian city of Verkhoyansk in the country’s far east above the Arctic Circle topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit in June 2020, the same month that Moscow, which shares the same latitude as a stretch of central Canada, experience a historic heat wave of nearly 95 degrees that broke a 120-year record. Russia’s low-population far east has been called a “methane time bomb,” due to rapidly rising temperatures that cause its limestone deposits to release methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

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