Brace yourself for more record heat

Posted in 03 August 2018

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Current high temperatures in the northern hemisphere are set to continue. Climate change means we're likely to experience very hot summers more often - even though we're already struggling with health consequences now.

Europe is in the throes of a heat wave, and it's not letting up - on the contrary. More hot air is coming over from Africa, and is even bringing desert dust with it.

Southwestern European countries are being hit especially hard. Authorities in Portugal issued a nationwide health warning, including for dust from the Sahara. Warnings were also issued for 40 of Spain's 50 provinces. The southeastern Portuguese town of Beja is expected to see a peak of 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday.

If people on the Iberian peninsula feel like they can't think clearly in that sort of heat anymore, that's not just subjective. Hot weather can make your thinking 13 percent slower, showed a study conducted by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health this past July.

But that's not the only problem with extreme heat. High temperatures increase the level of pollutants in the air, as they speed up the rate of chemical reactions. This increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

On top of that, unusually high temperatures at night disturb restful sleep, preventing the body from recovering from daytime heat.

Europe's heat wave shows no signs of abating

"Heat waves have caused much higher fatalities in Europe in recent decades than any other extreme weather event," Vladimir Kendrovski, a WHO climate change officer for Europe pointed out.

Vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly suffer the most. Many victims of extreme heat live in densely populated urban areas, which often suffer from a "heat-island effect," and where ventilation is scarce.

Parts of Asia hard-hit

Japan is experiencing unprecedented high temperatures this summer.

At least 119 people died of heat stress in July, with 49,000 more being hospitalized. The city of Kumagaya set a new national heat record, with temperatures hitting 41.1 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) in late July. In Tokyo, temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time ever.