Naming heat waves could help save lives, say experts

Heat waves kill more people in the U.S. than any other extreme weather event, and climate change is amplifying their dangers, say experts. Some are advocating for naming heat waves, in the same way that hurricanes are named, to help increase public awareness about the health risks of extreme heat.

Certain populations are particularly susceptible to adverse health effects from heat waves, including people over age 65 and those with chronic diseases, according to an August 14, 2020 article in Science News. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), said that racial discrimination also puts minority communities at disproportionately higher risk: Because of housing policies, communities of color often live in urban areas, which are heat islands that lack green spaces to help cool down neighborhoods.

Bernstein is a member of an international coalition called the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance that hopes to develop a system for naming heat waves.

Read the Science News article: Hurricanes have names. Some climate experts say heat waves should, too