As the world reels under the impact of climate change and heatwaves wreak havoc in several countries, leading to wildfires, drying up of rivers, and unpredictable droughts, scientists have for the first time given it a name. Just as cyclones have a name, the Spanish heatwave has been named Joe.
The name has been bestowed to tie meteorological forecasts to health impacts under a pilot project by proMETEO that was officially launched a few months back to classify heatwaves, as they become more intense and more frequent the world over.
Warm summer combined with a hot air front from North Africa have sent temperatures soaring across Spain in July this year, with the highest recorded temperature climbing up to 43 degrees Celcius near Seville in southern Spain and in Badajoz, towards the west of the country.
Scientists have named this heat spell ‘Joe’ under the pilot program that has been launched to test the feasibility of implementing a warning system for one year to alert of the arrival of a heat wave and its possible effects on health. “By categorizing heat waves according to their level of impact on health and naming those that may pose a greater risk, citizens will be able to take effective measures to protect themselves against extreme heat,” proMETEO Sevilla says on its website.
The heatwaves will be categorized on a three-level scale and named in reverse alphabetical order. The first five will be called Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao, and Vega. The project was done jointly with the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), which develops solutions for climate risks through partnerships with experts and policymakers.
In recent weeks, several wildfires have broken out in Spain, which registered its earliest heatwave in over 40 years with temperatures rising to 43 degrees in cities like Seville and Cordoba. A prolonged dry spell and the extreme heat made July the hottest month in Spain since at least 1961.
Meanwhile, Spanish reservoirs are at just 40 per cent of capacity on average in early August, well below the ten-year average of around 60 per cent, official data shows.
The dry, hot weather is likely to continue into the autumn, Spain’s meteorological service AEMET said in a recent report, putting further strain on Europe’s largest network of dammed reservoirs with a holding capacity of 5.6 billion cubic meters.