Heat Warning Program Will Alert All Large Cities
Because heat is one of the greatest weather related killers in many parts of the developed world, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is collaborating with cities across the United States and around the world to expand heat warning systems.
NOAA’s National Weather Service said Tuesday that it is expanding the number of Heat/Health Watch Warning Systems from 16 cities in the United States to every municipality with a population exceeding 500,000, and is helping other countries adapt the program for their own local conditions.
The potentially widespread health problems associated with heat waves have created a growing impetus to develop warning systems to allow urban health agencies and local meteorological offices to issue advisories to the public if a dangerous heat wave is imminent.
“This has led to an important collaboration to construct Heat/Health Watch Warning Systems for vulnerable large cities around the world,” said Laurence Kalkstein of the University of Delaware Center for Climatic Research and developer of the new system.
The system measures oppressive air masses affecting health and is part of a national focus on the special hazards excessive heat has on urban centers.
Based on NOAA Weather Service storm data from 1994 to 2003, excessive heat is the number one weather-related killer, causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and extreme cold.
“Philadelphia was the first city in the United States to implement the Heat/Health Warning System program and is now becoming the worldwide model for heat forecasting,” said Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist-in-charge of the NOAA Weather Service forecast office in New Jersey.
Cities in the northeastern and midwestern United States have the strongest weather mortality relationships, because weather variability, rather than heat intensity, is the single important factor in defining human sensitivity to heat, Szatkowski says. People living in highly variable summer climates are ill adapted to extreme heat, because it occurs irregularly. “For this reason, temperate cities like Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago exhibit extreme increases in the number of deaths reported when an intense heat wave occurs compared to many tropical cities in the world,” Szatkowski explained. “This is one reason that early season heat waves are associated with higher mortality, because people within the city population acclimate to the heat as the hot season continues.”
According to Kalkstein, the Philadelphia program provided the model used in developing programs for Shanghai, China; Toronto, Canada; and six cities in Italy – Rome, Palermo, Milan, Genoa, Bologna and Turin.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.