Every year, heat waves do not fail to claim people’s lives. Because of climate change, the temperature in some places surpasses a level which only some people cannot withstand without struggling. Studies report that heat waves kill more people than earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined.
A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat usually coupled with humidity. The Heat Values Index is used to measure extreme heat. The heat index, known as apparent temperature, is what it would feel like in the body when humidity combines with air temperature.
Heat waves occur when a high-pressure system in the atmosphere becomes stagnant, therefore getting stuck in just one location for days or even weeks. As greenhouse gases accumulate, the heat index is expected to rise. Because of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases, the planet feels warmer the next day than the previous because of the outward flow makes it difficult for other systems to integrate the area.
Typical weather conditions such as rain and wind spread out the heat. The high pressure, however, means there is a lack of these conditions in the local environment.
Heatwaves are relative to an area’s climate, and the effects on a person’s health also correlate to a range of risk factors. People adapt and become accustomed to the temperature patterns, therefore making a heat wave look like an “everyday experience.”
In 2012, the excessive heat killed 32 people in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. Most deaths happened at home, where the persons were either alone or did not have air conditioning in their houses. The number of casualties quadrupled from the results in 1999.
This year, researchers discovered that nearly 5 million people live in areas where there are extreme temperatures. The results serve as an opportunity to establish early warning systems and action plans.
The average temperature a person could handle is between 36 to 37 degree Celsius. When it goes beyond that, the body will “get rid of the heat.” The blood vessels expand, therefore increasing the heart rate.
However, some people do not fully recognize the effect of extreme heat waves to the body. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke immediately lead to death when untreated. Not only does the absolute temperature affect the human body, but it also affects the environment by causing wildfires and drought.
As an action plan, the Government and those in charge of emergency response could provide drinking water, cooling shelters, and medical check-ups to those who are most vulnerable to the risks. Those deemed prone to heat waves are the elderly, children, those who work outdoors, and those with chronic medical conditions.
In 2017 a study reported that by the year 2100, 74 percent of the world’s population would experience more than 20 days of extreme heat. Even if people cut back exponentially on fossil fuel emissions, factors like a surge in temperature and humidity still increase the intensity and frequency of deadly heat waves.