As extreme heat is suffocating communities around the world this week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said it has “no immediate plans” to name heat waves. The July 19 announcement appears to curb growing calls to devise a strategy for ranking and naming heat waves around the world.
In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster. Worldwide, 5 million people die every year. But heat waves haven’t always led to the same careful preparations that people might take to shelter from a major storm, for example. The purpose of naming heat waves would be to make it easier to communicate the risks they pose to the public so that people can take steps to stay safe.
In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster
For decades, names have been instrumental in early warnings of dangerous storms. Alerting people to Hurricane “Sandy” or “Harvey” became a lot easier than identifying a storm by latitude and longitude. The U.S. National Hurricane Center began naming Atlantic storms from an official list in 1953. Currently, the WMO maintains rotating lists of names for the Atlantic and other regions.
Some proponents want to apply a similar naming mechanism to heat waves. Seville, Spain, will become the first city in the world to try the idea later this year. Officials in Athens, Greece and California have considered doing the same. But the WMO apparently has some reservations, saying it’s “currently considering the pros and cons of naming heat waves.”
“What has been established for tropical cyclone events may not necessarily easily convert to heat waves,” the WMO said in its press release this week. “Caution should be made when comparing or applying lessons or protocols from one type of hazard to another because of the important differences in the physical nature and effects of storms and heat waves.”
“False alarm” is a concern for the Social Support Act. In many parts of the world, heat waves can be predicted up to 10 days out. But if the forecast for an extreme heat wave is inaccurate — maybe it’s not as hot as expected or it hits a different region than expected — people could lose faith in the warnings and ignore them.
The other caveat about heat, the WMO says, is that heat-related deaths can occur even when it’s not exceptionally hot outside. If someone is constantly exposed to more blistering conditions, for example in the workplace or in a home without air conditioning, they can get sick even if there is no officially declared heat wave.
To avoid confusion ahead of a potential disaster, the WMO also says that any “naming of a heat wave” should at least be linked to a country’s official warning system in the absence of a broader international framework.
Seville is conducting a pilot project this year that will test a new warning system to warn residents of a heat wave. Extreme heat events will be categorized according to their severity, and those expected to have the greatest impact on the city will be named. The first five have already been chosen: Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.
“We are the first city in the world to take a step that will help us plan and take action when meteorological events like this happen, especially since heat waves always affect the most vulnerable,” said Antonio Muñoz, the mayor of Seville. a statement. a press release dated June 21.
Parts of Europe are literally bent and burned
Parts of Europe literally gave way and burned under a relentless heat wave this week — even in places with typically milder summers. In the UK, record temperatures caused train tracks and even an airport runway to bend. London’s fire brigade responded to more fires in a day than since World War II, according to Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor. And 100 million people in the US are being warned about heat today.
Heat waves become more frequent and intense as greenhouse gas emissions warm our planet. More than a third of heat deaths can be attributed to climate change, according to research published last year.
This post The World Meteorological Organization has ‘no immediate plans’ to name heatwaves
was original published at “https://www.theverge.com/2022/7/21/23272824/world-meteorological-organization-heatwave-names”