Heatwaves kill more people than hurricanes and tornados each year in the United States. That’s why they are often called the silent killers, and new legislation in California is hoping to raise awareness by categorizing heatwaves similarly to hurricanes.
At the same time, the National Weather Service (NWS) is already in an experimental phase where they will be labeling heatwaves as categories. The main goal of this move is to help raise awareness and help the public realize the dangers.
And the severity and frequency of extreme heat events are increasing as a direct result of climate change. As the world continues on a course towards the irreversible, it is more important than ever to help prevent deaths.
Essentially, this legislation is looking to get rid of the “silent killers” nickname by raising awareness and many believe this is overdue.
It’s An Awareness Problem
The biggest reason why heatwaves are so deadly is due to awareness.
Most people just don’t realize the danger high temperatures pose to them. Instead, they just try to carry on with their day like nothing is wrong. And sadly, many don’t have a choice when they have jobs that keep them outside.
That’s exactly why the death toll ends up so high. So what happens when your body gets too hot?
For starters, you become dehydrated faster due to perspiration and this is the most well-known element of heatwaves. Nonetheless, what most people don’t know is that it also affects the thickness of your blood.
Eventually, when your body cannot cool down, you experience a heat stroke. It can cause permanent damage to your heart and other organs. Thus, even if you survive, it can have a permanent effect on your lifestyle going forward.
If people saw category 4 heatwave instead of temperature, most would actually take the necessary precautions into account.
So, How Would California Classify Heatwaves?
The new legislation proposed by California would require its EPA with naming and categorizing each heatwave with data supplied from the NWS.
As the legislation would be used in California, it would need to be changed if it expands to other states. That’s because the temperature is very subjective to the location. Humidity would also be a major factor to consider.
For example, many people move to Arizona because it is “Dry Heat” whereas Florida is the most humid state in the United States. This can result in a much lower temperature feeling significantly hotter than the same temperature in Arizona.
Thus a scale based solely on temperature would not work nationally. It is very similar to how some states are more susceptible to storm surges during hurricanes. This is why a category 1 hurricane can cause more damage in some regions than a category 3 in others.
So what would the heatwave categories actually be in this new system?
Well, we don’t actually know. At least not yet. As I said, this will be determined by California’s EPA. Thus, until its approved, the EPA will not have a system in place.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.