Science and technology
Sandra Rome is a geographer-climatologist at the LTHE (Laboratory of Environment and Hydrology Transfers) and teaches at the IGA (Alpine Geography Institute). She is particularly interested in the heatwave phenomenon.

 Question Box: Sandra Rome

You are a climatologist-diagnostician. What does that involve?

Sandra Rome: It is a term used for a person who is generally a geographer rather than an atmospheric physicist. We use the same meteorological parameters, but we geographers work more with statistics and less with atmospheric processes to make a diagnosis. We also forge ties between society and hard science, serving as a bridge between scientists and local authorities – the decision makers.

What encouraged you to focus on heatwaves?

S. R.: It’s a subject which concerns us all, especially since the heatwave of August 2003 affecting Western Europe. It made many people aware of these high temperatures which weaken living things – animals and plants – and disrupt ecosystems. Heatwaves are one of the effects of global warming. At its core, it is a natural phenomenon, but one which is largely accentuated by human activity, the consequences of which can be truly harmful when you consider the excessive 15,000 deaths in August 2003 in France alone. I began by working on high temperature anomalies in France’s Drôme department to look at how global warming might affect winter sports resorts, by shortening the snow season or by stopping snow from falling if temperatures are too high. The departmental council wanted to know, for example, if it would be worth investing in snow cannons given the current warming.

Should we expect more heatwaves like the one in 2003?

S. R.: Since 2003, the heatwaves we’ve experienced in France have been shorter than the one in 2003, which lasted thirteen days (particularly hot from 5–12 August), but overall the air temperature has indeed been rising. It is hotter today than it was thirty years ago. It looks like we’ll have more and more heatwaves, and they are set to be more intense (hotter) and last longer. That’s what all the temperature forecast models are predicting.
Publié le June 13, 2016
Mis à jour le February 20, 2017

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