Summer is approaching: will we see a repeat of 2018’s deadly heatwave?

The summer period between June and September of 2018 was marked by a particularly deadly heatwave that brought extreme hot weather to several countries in the Northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe. Countries that form the European Union usually experience summer temperatures between an average of 20 to 30 Celcius. In 2018, new records were met with temperatures reaching above 40 Celcius in several countries such as Greece and Portugal. Further north in the Scandinavian region which typically experiences a cool summer, Sweden saw an average of 30 Celsius through July 2018, breaking a 260-year record for the warmest month of July. The heatwave sparked major wildfires across the country.

A key characteristic of a heatwave is a persistent number of days with a tempterature above average levels. The summer heatwave of 2018 not only lasted from July until August but it surprised observers in the amount of countries which experienced simultaneously, from Canada on the North American continent to Japan in East Asia, and of course the EU states. 2018’s summer, while not the hottest, covered a lot of ground with extreme hot weather for several months.

Hundreds of people were killed in Europe alone in heatwave-related deaths while the hot weather facilitated wildfires, which devastated wide swathes of forests from Greece to Sweden. As June approaches and the weather turns warmer, are we likely to see a repeat of last year’s extreme heatwave?

According to experts, heatwaves similar to 2018’s extreme weather are indeed possible due to climate change and the El Nino effect. Climate change scientists from Europe to Japan have found strong links that suggest Earth’s average temperature is increasing annually due to human-related activities such as the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels. It has increased to a level whereby prediction of extreme weather is becoming easier and scientists have predicted that further heatwaves will become the norm. United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office has also come to the same conclusion and is likewise forecasting another heatwave. The forecast came amid an unusually hot Easter week for the country.

The weather could get warmer additionally due to the El Nino effect which officially formed during February 2019. A typical characteristic of this natural phenomenon is warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. While the impact of this year’s El Nino is considered minor, it is expected to raise the planet’s general temperature further this year.  

Other factors such as jet-stream flows also help determine how likely this year’s summer hot weather will be. While these factors are more difficult to predict, a hazardous heatwave is indeed possible. Preparation for the worst-case scenario should be considered before summer comes.

Travel Advisory

Taking care of yourself and your family by making sure everyone is cool and hydrated is perhaps the most important step not just during a heatwave but also any hot weather.  Further information can be found in Safeture’s more comprehensive heatwave advisory which elaborates on other important individual self-care tips such as  warning signs of a heatstroke

Additionally, it is anticipated that many travelers will be taking time off from work and go on a vacation around Europe. Before and during your travels, always plan ahead by keeping track of heatwave-associated hazards during the journey. Heatwaves may also cause wildfires such as the deadly wildfire that swept through Mati, Greece during last year’s summer. As it is a popular beach resort, the fire killed dozens of holiday-goers as well as locals who were caught in its path.

Other associated heatwave risks include road closures due to melting roads and power outages which may impact air conditioning. Furthermore, traffic congestions are anticipated during the busy summer vacation period. Getting caught in a poorly ventilated car on a congested route with associated heatwave-disruptions could potentially be dangerous. Keeping track of these risks especially on the go is vital for the safety of yourself, family and friends. Safeture will continue to monitor the weather situation throughout this year’s summer and provide necessary alerts on extreme conditions through the Safeture app.

Adam Yusoff
Safeture Analyst
Security risk analyst based in Kuala Lumpur
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