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Dangerous Heat in Europe

A national emergency in England.

On Tuesday the British government declared a national heat emergency due to high temperatures. It is an indication of how bad it is when temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a nation where the majority don’t have air conditioning. Tuesday an unofficial record high temperature was recorded.

There have already been hundreds of deaths across Europe from the most recent heat event, with people dying in Spain, Portugal and other nations.

Heat is easily going to be the major hazard killer going forward. Forget floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The death toll from heat is just going to keep going up and up. I expect we’ll start to see charts comparing one year to the next and tracking the number of heat-related deaths.

Per usual, it will be the old, the very young and the economically depressed who live in areas with higher heat due to the concrete jungle that surrounds where they live and work.

You can acclimatize to some heat, but there is a limit to what the human and animal body can stand. We are starting to cross that line in a number of different situations.

With the heat we’ll also see much higher demand for electricity, which will tax aging power grids. This is sure to fuel power outages in the summer months, with dire consequences for people who had air conditioning but can’t survive without it.

For the immediate and long-term future, the heat outlook is bleak!
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.