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WMO: Climate Change Causing More Intense, Frequent Heat Waves

A man cools off his dogs on a fountain during a heat wave called 'Heat Dome' in the Manhattan borough of New York, July 23, 2016.

The World Meteorological Organization said evidence is growing that links more intense and more frequent heat waves to climate change.

Heat waves that have gripped large parts of the Middle East and central and eastern United States since last week have reached temperatures far exceeding the seasonal averages.

The World Meteorological Organization says the blistering 54 degrees Celsius reached Thursday at Mitrabah, Kuwait, is probably the highest ever reached in the Eastern hemisphere and Asia.

The hottest temperature ever recorded was in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California at 56.7 degrees Celsius on July 10, 1913. While temperatures elsewhere in the United States have not reached those heights, WMO spokeswoman Claire Nullis said they have soared to 38 degrees Celsius.

“That is the actual temperatures," she said. "Once you factor in humidity and how it actually feels to you as a person, the temperatures are even higher. So, we are talking about 43 to 46 degrees.”

Nullis said a unique feature of the U.S. heat wave and that of many others is that the temperatures do not drop much at night. She said this offers little relief from the oppressive heat and can pose serious health risks, especially to the elderly.

“Over the past 50 years, hot days, hot nights and heat waves have become more frequent," she said. "We expect them to become more frequent still as this century progresses and this is obviously due to climate change.”

The World Meteorological Organization conducted a study last year, which found that many extreme events over the past five years were a result of climate change. In the case of heat waves, the agency says they increased by a factor of 10 or more.

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