Cerberus or Caronte? Why Europe Will Start Calling Heat Waves


European newspapers refer to the latest heat wave in Southern Europe as “Caronte,” after the sailor in Dante Alighieri’s poem “Inferno.” The name was not chosen by the World Meteorological Organization or another official body, but by Antonio Sanò, the founder of the Italian weather website Il Meteo.

Some meteorologists have called on government agencies to start naming heat waves the same way they do hurricanes and typhoons.

Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, which focuses on climate change, said naming and classifying heat waves based on their severity can increase awareness of the dangers of extreme heat.

“Heat, because it is silent and invisible, does not have the telegenic nature of other major weather hazards such as floods, hurricanes and fires,” said Ms. McLeod. “People don’t know it’s right, and that’s why it kills more people than any other weather-related disaster.” It needs PR and branding,” he said.

Mr. Sanò, the founder of Il Meteo, said that he started mentioning heat waves in 2012 as a way to explain the heat to people in a simple and memorable way. Mr. Sanò, an avid reader of ancient books, named last week’s heat wave in Southern Europe “Cerberus,” after the giant-headed dog that guards the earth in Greek mythology.

However, at the moment, government agencies have no immediate plans to give names to heat waves.

The World Meteorological Organization he said in a statement on Tuesday that mentioning the phenomenon of heatstroke puts the focus on the wrong issues. The organization, which has 193 member states and territories, added that the distribution of names can divert public and media attention away from messages that matter most, including who is at risk and how to respond.

A study published last week in the journal Nature Medicine found that more than 61,000 people died due to last year’s summer heat across Europe.

The National Weather Service in the United States also does not want to start calling heat waves, according to Susan Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service. But it is working to spread the word about the dangers of heat and improve public understanding of health issues.

More than 600 people are killed each year by extreme heat in the United States, according to the report Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number is much higher because heat-related deaths are often not distributed in this way.

Heat waves are expected to increase, especially in cities, where the risk is very high. A big one United Nations climate report released in October showed new data that showed that heat waves could affect almost every child in the world by 2050. Children face more risks from heat waves because they cannot control their body temperature.


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