Heatwaves: More Dangerous Than Crocs, Sharks, Spiders and Snakes Combined

There is an article in today’s Daily Mirror about a man who suffered horrific sunburn on the hottest day of the year so far in the UK. Apparently, last Friday, and I quote ‘He spent all afternoon in the garden, enjoying his girlfriend’s hot tub as temperatures soared high above 20°C.’

Ooh, scorchio! You can read the full article over at the Daily Mirror.

sunHere in Brisbane, our hottest days of the year so far are well and truly behind us, today the temperature was 22°C. Tomorrow is the first day of winter. The weather has cooled elsewhere in Australia as well and just a couple of nights ago Sydney shivered through its coldest May night in 18 years; the temperatures dropped to just 7.1°C at 6:20 AM in the city.

Tomorrow though, daytime temperatures in Sydney are expected to reach around 18°C. Back in January, during the height of summer here in Australia, it was a very different story. The press was full of advice about how to handle a heatwave.

Why?

MagazineThat’s something I wrote about in an article for Australia and New Zealand magazine. With temperatures cooling here in Australia and rising in the UK, this information is probably more useful to those of you living in Britain than it is to Aussies right now.

This article appeared in the magazines March edition. I gave it the really exciting title of ‘Heatwaves’, but they changed that to…

The heat is on

heatwaveEvery year, as summer arrives in Australia, state and territory governments remind their residents to prepare for storm season. Over the years, the Queensland Government have sent me a whole range of guides informing me of the things I should do.

These productions have varied massively over time in their presentation. The most frugal I have seen was simply a back page of information on the Government’s regular free newsletter delivered to our door.

The most elaborately produced, without doubt though, was in 2011 when I received a letter from the Queensland Premier of the time, Anna Bligh. It included a multipage flip up brochure with just about everything you would ever need to know about the inevitable storms an Australian summer will bring.

Get Ready QueenslandIt contained information about tsunamis, severe storms, cyclones and flooding. It had step-by-step instructions on preparing your home, your emergency plan, your survival kit, planning your evacuation and how to tune into the weather warnings. Yes, everything you could possibly want to know about storms in Australia.

Or was it?

This year, as the storm warning advice leaflets are circulating, some online media have chimed in with additional advice. They have reminded us of a hazard that wasn’t much talked about six years ago as I recall; heatwaves. I thought I’d give this a mention because I know that many people, particularly those in the UK, like the idea of moving to Australia for the warmer weather.

Hot and sunny is most definitely a positive, isn’t it?

Negatives about moving to Australia are things like our snakes, crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish and spiders. These things, after all, could potentially kill you, which would be about as big a negative as can be and is altogether unpleasant.

Heatwaves though kill more people each year here in Australia than any of those critters can manage. In fact not any of those critters, but all of them added together, and you can even throw in lives lost to bushfires as well.

In a recent study it was revealed that in the last 167 years, heatwaves claimed 5332 lives in Australia. So, why are the press warning us of heatwaves now when Australia has always been hot?

Apparently, 15 of the last 16 hottest years on record took place in the last 15 years. Well I suppose that’s as good a reason as any. Heatwaves are defined as three or more days of sustained high temperatures; in Australia that would be around 37°C to 42°C.

And yes, that does happen quite often here.

Australia isn’t the only country to have heatwaves though, the UK can have them as you know, and did in 2013 when temperatures just about topped 100°F (38.1°C) claiming almost 1000 lives. I have also read that no more people die in Athens from heat-related deaths as do in the north of Finland. The message is clear; preparation, as with those storms, can help you get by.

The good news though is we almost certainly are more prepared here in Australia, we are constantly being told to drink more water. Many homes have air-conditioning too and if not a shopping mall is a good place to be with a large bottle of water during a heatwave.

To find out what you should really do though, Google ‘Get ready Queensland – heatwave’.

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