Heat Wave Zoe – The First Heat Wave To Be Named
In the 1980s and 90s, Europe experienced a string of extremely hot summers. It wasn’t unusual for news reporters to warn about the upcoming heat wave, but unlike extreme storms, heatwaves never seemed to be dubbed with a name. No one ever called a heat wave by name until this year, when for the first time ever, the ProMETEO Sevilla dubbed it ‘Zoe’. ProMETEO Sevilla will order heatwaves in reverse starting with the letter ‘z’, rather than the World Meteorological Organization, which orders hurricanes in alphabetical order. Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao, and Vega have already been picked for future heat waves. An official heat wave is now any period with at least three straight days of high temperatures above 35°C (95°F). This year’s heatwave in Europe comes just four months after the world’s hottest summer on record. June is often the hottest month in Northern Europe, and this year was no exception. The average temperature for June throughout Northern Europe was 18 degrees Celsius – 6 degrees hotter than normal. In fact, every month between May and September was hotter than usual across much of Europe.
Who Decides When a Heat Wave Is Named?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has made it their mission since 1995 to monitor, report and forecast extreme weather events to help people stay safe and healthy. The WHO are independent and have no association with any government. WHO have a team of around 60 meteorologists and public health experts based in Geneva and Switzerland, who work to forecast and report extreme events, including heat waves. Before 1995, they didn’t call them heat waves, they called them ‘worsening periods of hot weather’. They also monitored droughts and water shortages, extreme precipitation and tropical cyclones – but in 1995 they decided to focus on just two of those: heat waves and tropical cyclones. They did this for two reasons; first, because extreme temperatures were killing more people than any other natural hazard and second, because tropical cyclones were mostly predictable. Extreme temperatures weren’t. They advised that extreme temperatures could occur anywhere and at any time of year. The ProMeteo Sevilla team of experts has developed an algorithm that monitors daily temperature spikes and gauges their potential health risks and impacts by taking into account a range of variables: the highest temperature, the lowest temperature (which is related to lack of nighttime relief), humidity, the length of the heat episode, and the time before the episode occurs.
Why Are There Now Heat Waves Named?
Because humans are affecting the climate, in parts of the world, heat waves occur more often and last longer than they used to. This means that we are potentially at greater risk from extreme heat than we were in the past. The WHO are tracking and monitoring extreme temperature events – like heat waves – to better understand how our changing climate is affecting us.
What are the Health Risks of a Heat Wave?
As well as the obvious risks of dehydration, heat waves can increase the risk of death from many other causes, such as heart attacks and strokes. In the European heat wave of summer 2015, an estimated 70,000 people died from overheating. This was more than double the usual number of deaths caused by extreme temperatures. More than half of those who died were over the age of 65 and many lived alone. Here in Australia more Australians die from heat related illnesses than any other. Working in extreme heat is one of the biggest problems companies are facing, which is why we started our HEATFIT program to not only provide fans for cooling but also a more holistic approach to managing heat stress in the workplace.
What to do During a Heat Wave?
Stay hydrated and try to avoid drinking alcohol – this dehydrates you further and can make you feel hotter. Drink lots of water and keep yourself hydrated by drinking regularly throughout the day. Drink electrolytes like Thorzt, hydralite, and gatorade and avoid high sugar content drinks. How often you need to drink depends on your body type, what you are doing (standing or moving around), the amount of fluid you lose (sweating) and the type of fluid you are drinking. Limit exercise to avoid excessive sweating and try to stay in the shade.
How Can You Stay Cool During a Heat Wave?
Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day – between 11am and 3pm – and avoid direct sun. Avoid the outdoors during peak hours, and make sure you keep hydrated at all times. Close your curtains or blinds and use your fans. A wet cloth to dab on the face, neck and forearms will cool the body quickly in front of a fan. Try to limit using air conditioning or if you have it lose off rooms that don’t need cooling to help the AC run more efficiently and save money. Hop in the water if you can, a small blow-up pool in the shade with a fan pointed at it will cool you down in no time. Wear light-coloured clothes and stay in the shade as much as possible.
Other Ways to Beat the Heat During A Heatwave
Stay in touch – If you have friends or loved ones who are particularly vulnerable to the heat, make sure they are checking in regularly. Stay in touch with them by phone, email or social media so you know they are safe. Keep cool – Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You can also try to keep your home a little cooler by closing your blinds or curtains, using fans and turning off any heating that isn’t necessary. Check your meds – If you are taking prescription medication, make sure it’s not affected by the heat.
Heat waves are becoming more frequent, intense and longer lasting. We are experiencing more heat waves than ever before, and these are increasingly likely to be more extreme. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the world’s average temperature barely increased, but since then it has risen; in 2018, the world’s average temperature was the highest ever recorded. As climate change progresses, more and more heat waves will occur. The best way to protect yourself against the risks of extreme heat is to prepare for it which is why we are big advocates for building climate resilience and made the HEATFIT Program. If you’re living in an area that is particularly susceptible to extreme heat, make sure you are prepared for a heat wave by following the advice above. Stay hydrated, avoid the sun, keep your home cool and check your medication.