Wednesday, July 27, 2022

 New Development in Meteorology: Now Categorizing and naming Heat Waves

‘Zoe’ Becomes the World’s First Named Heat Wave

Blistering temperatures ranked as a Category 3—the most severe tier—in Seville, Spain’s new heat wave system

The world’s first named heat wave hit Seville, Spain, this week, pushing temperatures past 110 degrees Fahrenheit and earning the most severe tier in the city’s new heat wave ranking system.

Heat wave “Zoe” has brought scorching temperatures to the southern part of the country for the last few days, particularly the region of Andalusia where Seville is located. Even in the evenings, the Spanish meteorological service recorded temperatures that hovered in the mid-80s in some areas — an extra stress on the human body, which relies on cooler nights to recover from high daytime heat.

Zoe is the first named heat wave to hit Seville since it officially launched a new pilot program last month for naming and ranking heat waves, similar to hurricanes (Climatewire, June 22). Only the most severe heat waves get names, designated this year in reverse alphabetical order. After Zoe, comes Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.

The program is a collaboration between the city of Seville and the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), with other partners including the Spanish Office for Climate Change and several Spanish universities and research institutes. It takes a three-tiered approach to categorizing heat waves in Seville, with Category 1 as the lowest ranking and Category 3 as the most severe.

The system has specific criteria for each category, involving not only daytime temperatures, but also nighttime lows, humidity and the heat’s expected effects on human health. 

Each tier triggers a set of emergency response services, like issuing weather alerts, opening cooling centers and dispatching community health teams to check on vulnerable populations.

Spain has been grappling with extreme temperatures for much of the summer already. High heat broke local records around the country last month, and the first two weeks of June were the hottest on record in the country, according to the Spanish meteorological service.

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