Projected changes in heat wave characteristics in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East
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According to observed twentieth century temperature trends and twenty-first century climate model projections, the region that encompasses the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (EMME) is identified as a climate change hot spot. We extend previous studies by a comprehensive climatology of heat waves in the EMME based on regional climate model simulations for the recent past and the end of the twenty-first century. A percentile-based definition of heat waves is used to account for local climatic conditions. Spatial patterns of several heat wave properties are assessed and associated with atmospheric circulation regimes over specific locations. To cover a range of possible future climates, we use three SRES emission scenarios. According to our results, all indices that characterize heat wave severity will strongly increase compared with the control period of 1961–1990. The northern part of the EMME could be exposed to increased heat wave amplitudes by 6–10 °C, and the southern part may experience 2–3 months more combined hot days and tropical nights. Heat wave peak temperatures will be higher due to the overall mean warming as well as stronger summer anticyclonic conditions. The projected changes will affect human health and the environment in multiple ways and call for impact studies to support the development of adaptation strategies.