The World Meteorological Organization has ‘no immediate plans’ to name the heat waves

As extreme heat swelters communities around the world this week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said it had “no immediate plans” to name the heatwaves. July 19 announcement appears to be dampening growing calls to come up with a ranking and naming strategy for heatwaves around the world.

In the USA, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster. Overall it kills 5000000 people per year. But hot spells haven’t always spurred the same careful preparations people might make to, say, shelter from a major storm. The purpose of naming heat waves would be to make it easier to communicate the risks they pose to the public so people can take steps to stay safe.

For decades, names have played an important role in early warnings of dangerous storms. Notifying people of hurricane “Sandy” or “Harvey” has become much easier than identifying a storm by latitude and longitude. The U.S. National Hurricane Center began assigning nicknames to 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, is set to become the first city in the world to test the idea later this year. Officials in Athens, Greece, and California considered doing the same. But WMO apparently has some reservations, saying that he is “currently reviewing the pros and cons of naming heat waves”.

“What has been established for tropical cyclone events will not necessarily easily translate into heat waves,” the WMO said in its Press release this week. “Caution should be used when comparing or applying lessons or protocols from one type of hazard to another, due to the significant differences in the physical nature and impacts of storms and heat waves. .”

“False alarms” are one of WMO’s concerns. Heat waves can be forecast for up to 10 days in many parts of the world. But if forecasts of an extreme heat wave are inaccurate – perhaps it’s not as hot as expected or is hitting a different region than expected – then people could lose faith in the warnings and stop. to take them into account.

The other caveat about heat, according to the WMO, is that heat-related deaths can occur even when it’s not extremely hot outside. If someone is continually exposed to more sweltering conditions, such as at work 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 advises that any “heat wave pilot naming” should at least be linked to a country’s official warning system in the absence of a broader international framework.

Seville is piloting a project this year that will test a new alert system to warn residents before a heat wave. Extreme heat events will be ranked according to their severity, and those expected to have the greatest impact on the city will be named. The top five have already been chosen: Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.

“We are the first city in the world to take a measure that will help us plan and take action when this type of weather event occurs, especially because heat waves always hit the most vulnerable,” Antonio said. Muñoz, the mayor of Seville. June 21 Press release.

Parts of Europe literally warped and scorched under a brutal heat wave this week – even in places where summers are generally milder. In the UK, record temperatures sail railway tracks and even an airport runway. According Sadik Khan, the mayor of the town. And 100 million people in the United States are subject to heat alerts today.

Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense as greenhouse gas emissions heat our planet. More than a third of heat-related deaths can be attributed to climate change, according to a study published last year.

Aubrey L. Morgan