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More Extreme Heat Waves in Store for Africa

Heat waves like the one that blistered South Africa in 2014 will likely become more common and more extreme in the coming years.

VOA has reported on the possibility that as the planet continues to warm, parts of the Middle East may become uninhabitable.

Now, new research says the same extreme weather could be in store for parts of Africa.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, concludes that Africa needs to prepare itself for longer, more extreme heat waves in the coming years.

Big Changes in Next 25 Years

The change, according to the research, is centered around the much-talked-about 2-degree Celsius rise in average temperatures around the globe.

Last week's Climate Action Summit in Washington was all about mobilizing business, government and private citizens do everything they can to keep the planet from hitting that fateful number.

But even the most hopeful scientists say that to get there, we have to cut our emissions of planet warming gases by 80 to 90 percent by 2050.

And if we can't do that, the new research warns, heat waves in Africa will become hotter and longer, in a region of the world where they have a big impact.

"Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change" according to Jana Sillmann of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). "...even a modest rise in average global temperature could have severe consequences for the people living there."

And the change is coming fast. The study says more common, more extreme heat could start being felt in Africa within the next 25 years.

Not Just Summer Heat

To make matters worse, since most of Africa is tropical, heat waves can occur any time of year.

And the research suggests that as we get closer to the next century, unusual heat waves could sweep across the continent as often as four times a year.

The researchers say that if we can't get the world's temperature under control, the only answer is to begin getting ready for the change.

"We need to put considerable effort into climate change adaptation," Sillman says, "to reduce the risk of extreme events such as heat waves."

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    Kevin Enochs

    Kevin Enochs is an award-winning content creator who has been explaining the intricacies of the natural world to television and online audiences for over 20 years.

    He perfected his craft working for CNN and the National Geographic Channel before heading to the Voice of America in 2012.