Call to name heatwaves like storms to convey danger of high temperatures

Heatwaves should be named in the same way as winter storms to better warn people of the dangers of sweltering heat, it has been urged.

The call comes as the UK faces another bout of hot weather with the possibility of the mercury hitting new record highs for July on Thursday, as high pressure brings warmer air north from Europe.

Western Europe is also facing record-high temperatures in the current heatwave, which scientists warn are becoming more likely and intense as a result of climate change.

But the Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change recently warned that the UK was not prepared for a future of more heatwaves, with more action needed to prevent overheating in homes, hospitals and schools, and that even vulnerable people did not consider themselves at risk.

Last summer’s heatwaves led to 863 excess deaths, Public Health England has estimated.

Bob Ward, director of policy at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the Met Office should start naming heatwaves, like it has for winter storms since 2015, to help warn people about severe weather.

Mr Ward said: “Far more people have died from recent heatwaves than from storms, so it should be uncontroversial to start applying names to both.

“The Government and its agencies, including the Met Office, must lead the way in communicating the growing dangers of heatwaves and other impacts of climate change, so that the British public are better informed and can protect themselves.”

Experts have urged people to take steps to protect themselves from the impacts of heat, particularly the elderly or those suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Advice includes wearing as little clothing as possible, and only light and loose clothes, staying hydrated, avoiding sunburn and overheating from exercise, and putting hands in cool water to help reduce body temperatures.

Dr Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “To stay cool during the heatwave: drink water, a lot of it, stay indoors during peak heat, look after your elderly relatives and friends and those who sleep rough.

“Take heatwaves seriously, they can be killers for all those who are already vulnerable.

“And talk about climate change all the time to everyone – that is by far the most important individual action you can do to tackle climate change.”

The world experienced its hottest June on record last month and could see the hottest ever July this month, with the rising global temperatures fuelling more heatwaves.

Dr Peter Inness, senior research fellow at the University of Reading, said it was too early to say if July would be the warmest on record globally.

But nine of the 10 warmest Junes had happened since 2000, and June 2019 was the warmest in Europe by almost 1C, he said, warning “weather records are not normally broken by such large margins”.

“The fact that so many recent years have had very high summer temperatures both globally and across Europe is very much in line with what we expect from man-made global warming.”

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