Europe Should Prepare Now For Hot 2020 Summer

Europe Should Prepare Now For Hot 2020 Summer

We need to be prepared for a long, hot summer, WHO European office warns. As a result of global warming, we will continue to see an increase in frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves over Europe.

“This is particularly important this year due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak compounding issues caused by extended periods of hot weather, while many people, including groups particularly vulnerable to both the infection and heat, might be advised or required to remain at home as potential lockdowns are in place,” the website reads.

The seasonal forecast provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts indeed suggests an above average hot and dry summer. The pandemic is likely to worsen both people’s ability to respond and global warming itself.

“In addition to the increased heat wave risks caused by climate change, we have reason to expect an effect of the COVID-19 related changes to emissions and air pollution. In particular a reduction in aerosols may lead to an increase in heat extremes,” says Carl Schleussner, head of Climate science and impacts and a scientific advisor to Climate Analytics. “How this effect might be playing out in the context of the abrupt, but also short-term COVID-19 induced changes also in the interplay with other gases needs to be looked at carefully.”

Heat waves are a profound health risk in particular for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, which are also a pandemic risk group. A severe heat wave could put tens of thousands at risk across Europe and would add pressure on the health care system.

“I am indeed very concerned about our ability to respond to climate related disasters in a pandemic situation,” Schleussner adds. “Even more concerning than the direct impacts it seems to me is that some of the most effective responses to heat waves such as evacuations might prove extremely challenging due to the pandemic.”

For example, the provision of cold rooms (a measure the city of Paris has taken last summer) might not be possible in a straight-forward way. At the same time, a larger number of the population might remain in urban centres due to the limitations related to summer vacation opportunities. Finally, hot-dry summers will increase the risks for wildfires from the Mediterranean to the polar circle.

WHO recommended keeping cool to avoid the negative health effects of heat and suggested four ways to do so.

  1. Keep out of the heat
  2. Keep your home cool
  3. Keep your body cool and hydrated
  4. Keep cool during the COVID-19 outbreak

“I’d assume it would be key to COVID-proof existing strategies to deal with heat extremes,” concludes Schleussner. “And to reflect thoroughly on additional risks that may arise during a heatwave occurring in a lockdown situation and how to prepare for that.”

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