Editorial

Hotter summers, colder winters! What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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Jamaica might not be as hot as Death Valley, California, in the United States, but every year seems to be getting hotter, with little evidence that Jamaicans are preparing to deal with the extremes of weather.

Each year, the headlines scream “record temperatures”, the latest being last month which was deemed the hottest June on record. On one day, temperatures soared to a blazing 39.1 degrees Celsius — the highest temperature ever recorded in Kingston.

“Jamaica has hot spells between June and August and it can be compounded with the Saharan dust and high-pressure ridge, that's why we are having higher-than-normal temperatures,” Meteorological Service spokesman Mr Glenroy Brown, a climate service specialist, explained.

Jamaicans felt the heat particularly during the period June 18 to 22, after temperatures increased significantly in some areas when compared to last year, due to the presence of the Saharan dust, the Met Office said.

Of a total of 14 stations that were examined from across the island, six had recorded higher temperatures this year compared to last year. These were in Kingston, St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Trelawny, Hanover, and St Ann.

Of special note is that Shortwood, St Andrew, registered the sweltering 39.1 degree Celsius on Saturday, June 22, which was a full 3.1 degrees higher than what was recorded in June last year.

We have heard almost every year of heat waves killing hundreds of people, especially in Europe. The Met Office people are telling us that Jamaica is not far off from a possible heat wave declaration by climate experts and scientists.

“It is possible we can have a heat wave as long as temperature recorded is within our highest three per cent on record; if we have that for a period of over five days, then we could declare that it is a heat wave... that is if this hot spell prolongs,” Mr Brown warned.

“Every year is getting worse — the last 16 years, those are the highest on record globally; we are entering into global warming,” he noted.

Heat waves will become more common as the planet continues to warm. Let us bear in mind that the July 1995 heat wave in the Midwest caused over 700 deaths in Chicago, the August 2003 heat wave in western Europe led to about 45,000 deaths, and the July-August 2010 heat wave in western Russia killed about 54,000 people.

Thank goodness for the breeze that has been helping to cool Jamaicans in some places where there is an abundance of trees. And health authorities have been pressing us to take steps to maintain the body's hydration with regular intake of water, particularly if we are involved in strenuous outdoor activities.

But more is going to be needed as temperatures get hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. A typical Jamaican home is without air conditioning for the heat and without heaters for the cold. We have to start thinking about such things, unbelievable as it sounds.

Obviously, most Jamaicans never thought we could come to this. But then, a few years ago we had not heard of climate change and global warming.


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