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The analysis revealed that the number of person-days in which city dwellers were exposed went from 40 billion per year in 1983 to 119 billion in 2016

A new study of more than 13,000 cities worldwide has found that the number of person-days in which inhabitants are exposed to extreme combinations of heat and humidity has tripled since the 1980s. The authors said, the trend, which now affects nearly a quarter of the world's population, is the combined result of both rising temperatures and booming urban population growth.

The study was published late on Monday night India time in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'. To come up with a measure of person-days spent in such conditions of heat and humidity, the researchers matched up the weather data with statistics on the cities' populations over the same time period. The analysis revealed that the number of person-days in which city dwellers were exposed went from 40 billion per year in 1983 to 119 billion in 2016 -- a threefold increase. By 2016, 1.7 billion people were being subjected to such conditions on multiple days.

Over recent decades, hundreds of millions have moved from rural areas to cities, which now hold more than half the world's population. There, temperatures are generally higher than in the countryside, because of sparse vegetation and abundant concrete, asphalt and other impermeable surfaces that tend to trap and concentrate heat-the so-called urban heat island effect. "This has broad effects," said the study's lead author, Cascade Tuholske, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University's Earth Institute. "It increases morbidity and mortality. It impacts people's ability to work, and results in lower economic output. It exacerbates pre-existing health conditions."

assorted garbage bottles on sandy surface Over recent decades, hundreds of millions have moved from rural areas to cities, which now hold more than half the world's population. | Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

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