A heat wave is generally agreed to be a period of days during which the temperature is higher than normal. The amount of moisture trapped in hot air also affects how people react to conditions. This is referred to as the Heat Index.
Heatwaves are deadly. Even the young and fit can die from overheating as happened this past week in Phoenix, Co. A young woman biking with companions succumbed to heat stroke and could not be saved even though two of her companions were MDs. Phoenix saw record breaking temperature at 48 degrees Celsius break the old record by two degrees.
Those most at risk for heat stroke are outside workers such as roofers, but also recreational outdoors people who are unable to find a cool place to recover.
Heat stroke starts as heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can be profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, fainting, muscle cramping. It is important to move to a cooler place and to drink water and place wetted cloths on the skin to help cooling. When the humidity is high, cooling becomes less efficient.
Heat stroke may occur if cooling is not done. This can lead to death and if the person recovers permanent cognitive impairment. If you picture egg white in hot water, you can start to realize the damage that heat stroke can do.
Those people who do not have air conditioning or the ability to travel to cooling centres are at elevated risk of dying from heat. In 2003 a heatwave in France killed 14 802 people. Again it is the poor who are at most risk for overheating.
There is concern that as the planet warms; the frequency of heatwaves will increase. It is unlikely to be a straight-line increase in frequency over a given area but rather a trend. For instance, in the USA the worst heat wave on record was in the 1930s which turned much of Oklahoma into a dust bowl. What has increased is the frequency of heatwaves and the areas that are affected.
There are still some who dismiss the climate science that shows a warming trend. The US Republican candidate for the November presidential election has publicly announced his skepticism of the phenomenon, but has taken measures to try to ensure his golf and hotel holdings in Ireland are protected from rising sea levels.
Western Canada has moved into spring in 2016 after experiencing a dry and mild winter. While the parkas got little wear this winter, it has led to some dangerous conditions heading into summer.
The boreal forest near the oil town of Fort McMurray has several fires on the go with one about 750 hectares threatening some of the outlying dwellings. Some areas are on voluntary evacuation but two trailer parks are under a mandatory evacuation. About 700 people have been displaced.
Some schools suspended classes today.
Authorities have advised people in the town to remain indoors to avoid the heavy smoke and ash fall that is polluting the air. Those with respiratory difficulties are advised to evacuate to an area with better air quality.
Smoke has hampered the helicopters but air tankers have been dropping water and fire retardant on the flames.
Numerous wild fires burn throughout Alberta with another large, out of control fire near Slave Lake.
Relief in the form of lower temperatures and rain are not in the forecast. Tomorrow Edmonton is expected to break a 50 year record for high temperatures. Rain is a fraction of what normally falls. The prairie spring is recording temperatures normally encountered in June and July.
Neighbouring provinces are also feeling the hot, dry weather. Much of Saskatchewan is extremely dry and British Columbia has most of the province classified as high risk for fire danger.
The aberrant weather is being blamed on El Nino.
It’s not just fire that threatens the forests of BC and Alberta. The Mountain Pine Beetle thrives in the warmer weather. With milder winters more of the destructive insects survive. They have ravaged the forests of BC and have hopped the Rockies to attack Alberta pines. It looks as if they are setting their sights on Saskatchewan boreal forests as well. The pine beetles have destroyed billions of dollars of wood over the past decade and cost governments millions to try to fight their spread.
The Zika Virus is in the world’s headlines. It burst onto the world consciousness recently when thousands of babies in Brazil were born with abnormally small heads. Many of the newborns are healthy, but will require lifetime support. Not all micro encephalic babies survive. When an investigation of one deceased child was performed, the virus was found in its brain.
Previously the Zika Virus was thought to be a relatively harmless invader that caused a mild reaction. Many people that had been infected were not aware of the virus in their blood stream.
There’s more bad news about this emerging health problem.
Zika is present in other South American countries as well. The health minister in Columbia is sounding the alarm about Guillain-Barre Syndrome(GBS). The virus is implicated in triggering the auto immune reaction that can cause paralysis, and in some cases, death.
Normally few people present with GBS. Columbia is reporting hundreds of cases linked to Zika.
“In the past week we have seen a substantial increase in the number of people reported with Guillain-Barré,” said health minister Alejandro Gaviria, referring to a rare syndrome that causes a person’s own immune system to damage nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and sometimes, paralysis.” The Guardian
WHO has declared the emerging Zika viral disease a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
The disease caused by the virus is known to spread by mosquitoes, but there is some anecdotal evidence that it can be passed human to human via body fluids. In Canada, the organization responsible for the blood banks has announced new regulations regarding donations from people suspected of exposure.
Originally identified in Africa in 1947, the virus has now spread throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, SE Asia and Pacific Islands as well as S. America and Central America. At this time, countries that have cold winters seem to be immune to the mosquito that spreads the virus.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Farmers and government in Argentina are battling an emerging plague of locusts. Like something out of a horror movie, locusts are set to devastate vast swaths of Argentinian cropland.
Last year a major outbreak of the insects had farmers fighting a losing battle against these voracious vegetarians. A locust can eat its weight in greenery each day. The swarms can contain millions of these critters and when they settle down to eat they will strip the area bare in a few hours.
While many of us have seen grasshoppers and know the damage they can do to your flower or vegetable garden if left unchecked, locusts are far more damaging. After emerging from their eggs laid the previous summer it takes only about 10 days for them to achieve flight.
The hungry insects can fly considerable distances before settling down for another binge. In a day an average sized swarm(about 40 million insects) will consume as much as 2500 people.
The Argentinians are fighting the threat of ruined crops by engaging swarm spotters who attempt to discern where the swarm will land for the night. Then the spray equipment descends on the area and sprays pesticides on the insects, hoping to kill the majority of them.
Some of the farmers are saying too little too late. Last year saw sporadic outbreaks of swarms. Efforts to engage the government in helping eliminate the few swarms before they could lay eggs went unrewarded. There is a new president in Argentina now.
Many areas around the world are subject to sporadic outbreaks of this plague. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Sudan, Madagascar have all had outbreaks in recent years. The explosive population growth occurs after a mild, wet winter which allows the eggs of the locusts to remain viable.
A warming climate is predicted to cause many more serious insect infestations that were previously held in check by early, hard frosts. In N. America for instance, much of the northern pine forests have fallen victim to the pine beetle.Their explosive growth is partly blamed on climate warming.
But when rainfall drops, Titicaca is no longer able to counteract the evaporation rate which has increased. An average of one degree Celsius increase over temperatures in 1995 has hastened evaporation.
Bolivia’s largest lake is also fighting for survival. A combination of sewage from over two million people and industrial wastes has turned Titicaca into a virtual cesspool.
The problem of water body survival is not limited to Bolivia. Many areas around the world have seen fresh water polluted by careless disposal of sewage and laissez faire attitudes towards resource extraction.
Blogger, gardener, farmer. Working toward food security and a 30 foot
diet. Addicted to reading. Love this planet, especially my little corner
on Vancouver Island, Canada