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Sevilla becomes first city to 'name' and 'classify' heatwaves on a 'natural disaster' level
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 @ 12:44 AM

ONE of Spain's hottest cities has become the first on earth to put 'names' to heatwaves – in the same way as storms and hurricanes – and to 'classify' them in a similar manner.

Typically, a 'heatwave' in Spain will come in July or early August, is more likely to affect the central parts of the country, and although intense and backed by weather warnings, do not normally see a rise in temperature of more than about 5ºC above the 'norm' for the time of year.

But this depends upon where it strikes: If a part of the country that sits around 25ºC in high summer soars to 37ºC and the southern or Mediterranean coasts to about the same, then the latter would not be considered as 'suffering from a heatwave' given that the usual figures for the season would be around 31ºC to 34ºC in any case.

They usually last a maximum of three or four days and, in traditionally warm parts of the country, are mainly only noticeable at night – the daytime may already be scorching and a few extra degrees make little difference, but when lows soar from around 20ºC, the cut-off figure for what is known as a 'tropical night', to almost 30ºC, this is when air-conditioning units go into overdrive and electricity use soars.

As a country with hot summers, Spain knows how to deal with heatwaves: Stay indoors when the UV rays are strongest, or outside under a parasol; make use of any large body of water – sea, swimming pool, 'river beach' – to keep cool; wear a hat or carry an umbrella; eat little but keep sugar and salt levels up when you sweat; sunscreen at all times; and never, ever leave the house without a bottle of water.

Andalucía's land-locked provinces – Sevilla, Córdoba and Jaén – are where temperatures are typically the highest in summer; it is not unusual for a 'normal' July day to see thermometers in the shade breaking the 40ºC barrier and, in fact, Córdoba even planned to name a street after the man who invented air-conditioning as a tribute to 'a person who has potentially saved lives' in the area.

But heatwaves elsewhere in the world can be much more severe and life-threatening – conversely, so can a heatwave in a typically colder country, since the infrastructure and human habits are not in place and the inhabitants are not acclimatised.

Taking heatwaves seriously: International climate conference in Sevilla

Climate change is expected to bring more heatwaves, longer and more intense ones – as well as more and much more damaging freak weather episodes and much colder, more deadly freezing spells – so scientists are now focusing as much on extreme mercury highs and their impact on society as they have always done on tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical storms, among other potentially terrifying natural disasters.



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