At econlife, we’ve suggested that heat waves should have names.
It turns out that some do. Right now Cerberus is roasting Southern Europe.
Heat Wave Names
The Italian Meteorological Society named the current Southern European heat wave after the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates to the underworld. Last July, when the naming began for an equally sweltering month, Seville selected Zoe.
In addition, Seville has moved ahead with a 3-tiered heat response system. Having started with Zoe, Seville’s naming system will go to Yago and then Xenia as it proceeds in reverse alphabetical order. Their mayor emphasized that their preplanned response names and categories give heat the same importance as hurricanes. Having said in the past that nations Treasure What They Measure, we can see Seville elevating the heat wave phenomena so it knows in advance how to mobilize.
By contrast, the World Meteorological Organization cautioned against naming heat waves. While they admitted that one common name would be helpful, they also warned that heat waves were less suitable for naming than other catastrophic weather events.
Record Heat Waves
You can see that we were in above average and record “red” territory during June:
Correspondingly, NOAA tells us that June 2023 was a record setter when, for the first time, the June temperatures were more than 1°C above the long-term average. And, with July 4, 2023 also hitting records as the hottest day since we began monitoring temperatures in 1979, the heat wave continued.
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
While Chicago has a heat wave response plan, Los Angeles, Miami, and Phoenix have Chief Heat Officers (CHO) that we hope have been sufficiently funded to institutionalize their heat wave readiness. In Miami, the CHO lowered the threshold temperatures, added air conditioners to public shelters, and hopes to plant tree canopy protection.
Because CHOs are asking cities to plan for future heat waves, their big challenge is the opportunity cost of new programs. With Katrina the perfect example, we only cared about a Category 5 hurricane after it hit. Beforehand, we refused to allocate municipal spending to the preparation that would have reduced the damage.
Actually though, it all made sense. Defined as the sacrificed alternative, the opportunity cost was too great. It was more logical to have lower taxes or spend the money on schools and other current needs. So now we can ask if we are sufficiently concerned.
Perhaps, Zoe and Cerberus will make a difference.
My sources and more: For heat wave names, I went to Canada’s Global News. A new source for me, it appears dependable. Then, always handy, NOAA had the heat wave data. And finally, using a varied lens, the global heat stories from the NY Times took us around the world to work and people’s homes. Also, Axios had up-to-date CHO facts.
(Please note that several sentences from today’s Our Bottom Line was in a previous econlife post. Our featured image is from RiteE at Pixabay.)