Climate change has increased the intensity of heat waves which have become one of the most devastating natural disasters in many countries.
A heat wave is a period of excessively hot weather that typically lasts two or more days. To be considered a heat wave, the temperatures must be outside the historical averages for a given area. As the Earth’s climate warms, unusual high temperature in days and nights are becoming more common and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and intense. Increases in these extreme heat events can lead to more heat related illnesses and deaths, especially if people and communities are not prepared and do not take steps to adapt. Large urban areas already face challenges related to heat. Surface air temperatures are often higher in urban areas than in surrounding rural areas for a few reasons, including the concentrated release of heat from vehicles, buildings, and industry. This urban heat island effect is expected to strengthen in the future as the structure, spatial extent, and population density of urban areas change and grow.
Extreme heat can increase the risk of other types of disasters. Heat can aggravate drought, and hot dry conditions which can cause the wildfire. In cities, buildings roads and infrastructure can be heated to 50 to 90 degrees hotter than the air while natural surfaces remain closer to air temperatures. The heat island effect is most intense during the day, but the slow release of heat from the infrastructure overnight can keep cities much hotter than surrounding areas. Rising temperatures across the country poses a threat to people, ecosystems and the economy. Heat waves are one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States. According to statistics, Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to more than six per year during the 2010s; killing over 600 per year more than all other impacts combined. The Billion Dollar Weather Disasters database compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists heat waves as four of the top 10 deadliest U.S. disasters since 1980. Heat stress occurs in humans when the body is unable to cool itself effectively. Normally, the body can cool itself through sweating, but when humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, potentially leading to heat stroke. In addition, hot days are also associated with increases in heat-related illnesses including cardiovascular and respiratory complications, kidney disease, and can be harmful especially to outdoor workers, children, the elderly, and low-income households.
Despite how fatal the extreme heat can be, there are several methods or strategies to prevent and resilience to heat waves. For example, dress properly to protect you from sunburn and help absorb sweat to keep you a little cooler. Stay hydrated, installing cool and green roofs and cool pavement to reduce the urban heat island effect, and planting more trees. Moreover, We should actively cope with climate change and its associated with the extreme weather and climate events.
USGCRP Indicator Details. Retrieved from https://www.globalchange.gov/browse/indicators/us-heat-waves
“Heat Waves and Climate Change.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 18 July 2019, www.c2es.org/content/heat-waves-and-climate-change/.
“What Is a Heat Wave?” NOAA SciJinks – All About Weather, scijinks.gov/heat/.
“What Causes a Heat Wave?” Farmers’ Almanac, 5 Aug. 2019, www.farmersalmanac.com/what-causes-a-heat-wave-10912.