World Bulletin / News Desk
Faced with exploding populations and steadily rising temperatures worldwide, cities must make haste in reinforcing defences against climate change-induced flooding and heat waves, experts warned this week.
Cities are vulnerable to a unique risk called the "urban heat island" (UHI) effect -- their concrete surfaces retain more of the sun's heat than undeveloped areas, scientists explained at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna.
By midcentury, if planet-warming fossil fuel emissions continue unabated, city temperatures in Belgium could exceed today's heat-alert levels by as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) for 25 days each summer, according to one research paper.
Another study showed that heat waves will become a frequent challenge for European cities -- more numerous in the south of the continent, more intense in the north.
And floods, a major risk to Europe's dense urban settlements, will become more common because of an increase in freak rainstorms, as well as sea-level increases caused by polar ice melt and warmer ocean water expanding.
In flood-prone southeast Asia, precipitation is set to increase by 20 percent this century, one researcher said in Vienna.
The stakes are especially high given the projections for expansion of urban areas, which are often ill equipped to deal with nature's vengeance.
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