These two natural disasters weren’t a threat to mankind up until recently. Sure, they still occurred but not as worse as they are now. What might be the cause of increase heat waves and droughts? My best guess would be global warming. (See Chart Below)
Heat Waves and Droughts, 1980-2010
The symbols show the most affected regions as of March 2011
Droughts and heat waves accounted for two of the deadliest natural disasters in the world since 1980, including a 2010 heat wave in Russia that caused 56,000 deaths and nearly $2 billion in economic losses, according to Munich Re. The major part of the direct economic losses of heat waves are secondary effects such as drought, subsidence and wildfires, according to Munich Re.
Europe is witnessing a dramatic increase in property damage as a result of drought-induced soil subsidence, according to a 2011 study from Swiss Re. Prolonged dry spells can cause the ground to sink by so much that cracks appear in the earth, tearing apart the foundations of houses, bridges, factories and other structures. In France alone, subsidence-related losses have risen by more than 50 percent in the last two decades.
So, how do heat waves form?
A heat wave is an extended interval of abnormally hot and humid weather, usually lasting from a few days to over a week. Heat waves form when an air mass becomes stationary over a region. In the Eastern United States a heat wave occurs when a high pressure system originating in the Gulf of Mexico becomes stationary just off the Atlantic Seaboard (typically known as a Bermuda High.) The SW winds on the back side of the High continue to pump hot, humid Gulf air North-eastward resulting in a spell of hot and humid weather for much of the Eastern States.
The dangerous heat wave spreading across the United States the third week in July 2010 caused at least 22 deaths and prompted NOAA’s National Weather Service to issue a heat alert affecting approximately 995,000 square miles and 150 million people.
Be Prepared – - Heat Wave Tips:
- If a heat wave is predicted or happening – slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you have to do strenuous activity the recommended hours are between 4 am and 7 am.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Remember electric fans do not cool air, but they do help sweat evaporate which cools your body.
- Wear lightweight, light colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool.
- Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heart’s effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
As long as you stay in a cool place and keep yourself hydrated, you’ll be fine. And remember to check up on elderly friends and neighbors.