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.
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