Why does MOSES focus on heat waves?
In the last fifteen years, six extreme heat waves have occurred worldwide (2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015) five of which (all except 2009) were observed in Europe. Their devastating impact on the functioning of ecosystems led to an increased vulnerability well beyond the duration of the events, including ecosystem degradation, increased erosion, reduced carbon uptake by vegetation and the susceptibility of plants to pests and diseases.
Further effects included the loss of agricultural production and the presence of environmental conditions unfavourable to human health, leading to high death tolls. Past heat waves reduced evapotranspiration and CO2 uptake significantly on a continental scale, mainly through the concomitant effect of reduced precipitation and increased temperatures, thereby turning the affected regions from a net CO2 sink to a net CO2 source. It was also observed that air pollution increased during heat waves. A better understanding of the causes, development and consequences of heat waves is essential for the improvement of adaptation and protection measures.