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WMO to strengthen heat-health early warnings and action plans in response to global heatwaves

Recent heatwaves across the globe induce the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to step up its efforts to strengthen heat-health early warnings and integrated action plans for heatwaves.

Heat is a rapidly growing health risk, due to climatic changes, rising urbanisation, and demographic changes in countries with ageing populations. Simultaneous heatwaves with maximum temperatures above 40°C and high nighttime temperatures for several days, as seen in July in the Mediterranean, North America, parts of Asia, and across North Africa, have increased sixfold since the 1980s. With heatwaves being among the deadliest natural hazards, hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable heat-related causes each year. The impacts on people’s well-being, economies, and the natural and built environment are serious. Tried, tested, and iteratively updated response strategies and communication plans are needed to target the general population and vulnerable groups such as older adults, outside workers, or socially deprived populations.

For Europe alone, a recently published study calculated over 61,000 additional deaths due to extreme heat in the summer of 2022 – while Europe has some of the strongest early warning systems and heat-health action plans in the world according to Joy Shumake Guillemot of the World Meteorological Organization/World Health Office joint office on Climate and Health.

WMO, through the Early Warnings for All Initiative, is strengthening member capacity to develop and deploy impact-based warnings. This includes updating guidance on heat health warning systems, and developing standardized terminology and definitions for extreme heat. Harmonized approaches and categorization of heatwave intensity will help to scale up the implementation of impact-based forecasts and warnings worldwide. WMO partners up on the topic of extreme heat with the World Health Organization, academic and governmental and non-governmental partners through the Global Heat Health Information Network as well as the WMO/UNDRR Center of Excellence.

More information about the initiative can be read on the WMO website.

Date: 04 Aug 2023