Global Heatwave 2024: Causes, Health Risks And Preventative Measures

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Climate Change, Global Warming

Home » Climate Change » Global Heatwave 2024: Causes, Health Risks And Preventative Measures

In 2024, the world is suffering extraordinary heatwaves, which have made global headlines and raised concerns about our planet’s future. These extreme temperature episodes have posed significant health hazards, economic disruptions, and social issues. This article investigates the causes of the 2024 global heatwave, its health consequences, worldwide ramifications, and preventative methods to reduce future heatwaves.

Causes of the 2024 Global Heatwave

A heat wave is a protracted period of scorching weather that may be followed by significant humidity, especially in oceanic climate countries. While definitions vary, a heat wave is commonly defined as significantly higher temperatures than the regional and seasonal averages. Extreme temperatures can offer severe health hazards, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other heat-related disorders. Heat waves can also strain electrical grids by increasing demand for air conditioning, causing crop failures and worsening drought conditions. Climate change is causing heat waves to occur more frequently, for more extended periods, and with greater severity.

Several causes led to the extreme heatwave in 2024. The principal causes are:

heatwave in 2024

1. Climate Change: It is the most significant factor in increased heatwave frequency and intensity. Human activities, mainly using fossil fuels and deforestation, have caused substantial increases in greenhouse gas emissions. These gases entrap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming and increased extreme weather occurrences.

2. El Niño: El Niño, which causes warmth in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, contributed significantly to the 2024 heatwave. El Niño disrupts weather patterns, causing hotter and drier conditions around the planet.

3. Urbanization: Rapid urbanization has resulted in urban heat islands, where cities have greater temperatures than the surrounding rural areas. This is owing to the widespread usage of heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt and a need for more plantations.

4. Deforestation: The destruction of forests limits the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 and regulate temperature. Deforestation also affects local meteorological patterns, which contribute to rising temperatures.

Also Read: The Global Threats Of A 2 Degrees Celsius Temperature Increase

Health Risks of Heatwaves

Heatwaves offer serious health concerns, especially to older people, children, and people with preexisting medical issues. The health effects include:

1. Heatstroke: Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition in which the body’s temperature regulation mechanism fails. Some of the symptoms are confusion, fast heartbeat, and unconsciousness.

2. Dehydration: High temperatures raise the body’s requirement for fluids. Individuals who do not drink enough fluids may get dehydrated, which can cause dizziness, headaches, and, in severe cases, kidney failure.

3. Respiratory Issues: It worsens air pollution, causing poor air quality. This can cause respiratory problems, particularly for people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

4. Cardiovascular Issues: Extreme heat can strain the heart, raising the danger of heart attacks and other cardiovascular disorders.

5. Mental Health: Prolonged exposure to heat can create stress and discomfort, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems.

Global Impact

The 2024 heat wave had a significant impact on several locations throughout the world. Notable instances are:

  • United States: Many sections of the United States, notably the Southwest, have seen record-breaking temperatures. Arizona, Texas, and California temperatures have risen to more than 120°F (49°C). This has resulted in a large number of heat-related illnesses and deaths, stressed power networks, and wildfires. Agricultural sectors have also been severely impacted, with crops wilting in the high heat, endangering food security.
  • Saudi Arabia: The heat wave coincided with the annual Hajj trip, creating significant hardships for millions of travellers. Temperatures in Mecca and the surrounding areas surpassed 110°F (43°C). The government took considerable precautions to protect the pilgrims’ safety, including providing adequate water, medical facilities, and shaded spaces. Despite these attempts, there have been instances of heat-related illnesses among pilgrims.
  • India: India has been dealing with excessive heat, particularly in the north and central areas. Temperatures in Delhi, Jaipur, and Lucknow cities exceeded 115°F (46°C). The weather has exacerbated water shortages and caused significant heat-related illnesses. The agriculture industry has suffered, with severe crop losses impacting farmers’ incomes.
  • Southern Europe: Countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece have all been severely damaged by the heat wave. Temperatures in Spain reached an all-time high of 117°F (47°C), resulting in widespread wildfires. The heat wave had a comparable impact on tourism, agriculture, and public health in Italy and Greece.

Heatwave Preventative Measures

Heat waves present a complicated challenge that governments, communities, and individuals must address. Key preventive actions include:

  • Climate Mitigation: Addressing climate change is the most effective long-term option to reduce the frequency and intensity of heat waves. This includes lowering greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable energy sources, enhanced energy efficiency, and encouraging sustainable land use practices.
  • Urban Planning: Cities can be built to reduce the urban heat island effect. This involves creating green spaces, installing cool roofs and pavements, and improving natural ventilation. Urban woods and green roofs can help absorb heat while improving air quality.
  • Early Warning Systems: Governments should invest in early warning systems to inform citizens of imminent heat waves. These systems can deliver immediate heat-related information and recommend protective measures for susceptible groups.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating the public on the hazards of heat waves and the significance of staying hydrated, shaded, and calm can help save lives. Public awareness efforts can also urge behavioural adjustments, such as avoiding outdoor activities during peak heat.
  • Healthcare Preparedness: Healthcare systems must be ready to address the increasing number of heat-related ailments. This includes training healthcare workers, maintaining appropriate medical supplies, and developing community cooling centres.
  • Water Management: Effective water management practices are critical during heat waves. This includes guaranteeing a steady drinking water supply, encouraging water conservation, and investing in infrastructure to store and deliver water more efficiently.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 2024 worldwide heatwave has highlighted the critical need to find out the root causes of extreme weather events and establish effective policies to protect public health and well-being. Climate change remains the principal cause of catastrophic catastrophes, prompting a global commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and shift to more sustainable activities. In the short term, improving urban design, investing in early warning systems, and increasing public awareness are critical steps towards mitigating the effects of heat waves. By taking preemptive actions, we can strengthen resistance to future heat waves and protect people’s health and livelihoods worldwide.

Also Read: The Impact Of Rising Ocean Levels On Fisheries And Global Food Supply

 

Author

  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.

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