Localized Changes in Heat Wave Properties Across the United States

Javad Shafiei Shiva, David G. Chandler, Kenneth E. Kunkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Heat waves are an important type of extreme climate event and directly result in more than 130 deaths per year across the United States. Heat waves have been described by several attributes and combinations which constitute various event typologies. Attributes of heat waves from 10 cities are analyzed over the period 1950–2016 to understand how these attributes determine variability in local heat waves and how climate change affects heat waves across the United States. This study uses eight definitions to differentiate heat waves and tests for temporal trends in key properties of heat waves over the period 1950–2016. At least five harmful attributes of heat waves have increased simultaneously for Dallas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, and Portland.Miami showed the greatest change in heat wave season length, frequency, and timing over the study period. Surprisingly, the greatest mean heat wave intensities above daily thresholds were for Bismarck, ND (+8.2 °C) and Syracuse, NY (+6.5 °C). Similar results across Baltimore, MD, Colorado Springs, CO, Dallas, TX, Des Moines, IA, Miami, FL, New York, NY, Phoenix, AZ, and Portland, OR, are presented to clarify the many quantitative differences in heat wave attributes and variance in quantification approaches across climates. This work explores the nexus of quantitative description and social construction of heat waves through the lens of the various regional metrics to describe heat waves. Ultimately, this assessment will guide the development of various strategies to help communities understand and prepare for heat resilience based on local heat wave components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-319
Number of pages20
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Urban Heat Island
  • climate change
  • extreme climate events
  • heat wave
  • heat wave profile
  • heat wave properties and components

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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