Story at a glance

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 1,300 people die in the US per year due to extreme heat.
  • California officials have proposed legislation that would name and rank heat waves in order to address extreme heat induced deaths and better leverage public health resources.
  • California’s 2021 heat wave broke records across the state, with Sacramento hitting 109 degrees and the Coachella Valley having its hottest year on record with temperatures reaching 123 degrees.

Los Angeles is hoping to implement a unique naming system for heat waves in an effort to prioritize the seriousness they pose to public health.

The idea comes from how hurricanes are named and ranked by their intensity and severity. However, for heat waves, experts hope to name and rank them based on their projected public health outcomes, over meteorology.

Last month, California’s Department of Insurance proposed legislation that would be the nation's first ranking system for heat waves. In a press release, Ricardo Lara, California insurance commissioner, cited research that indicated heat waves are projected to be, “more intense, longer, and more frequent in years ahead.” 

Lara said that from 1980 to 2000, there were an average of six annual extreme heat days in Los Angeles. By 2050, that number is predicted to be 22 days. Last year in 2020, emergency room visits increased by 10 times the normal number during record-breaking heat as high as 121 degrees in Los Angeles County. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


This year, California’s 2021 heat wave broke records across the state, with Sacramento hitting 109 degrees and the Coachella Valley having its hottest year on record with temperatures reaching 123 degrees. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 1,300 people die in the US per year due to extreme heat. Implementing heat wave response programs is something the EPA has also endorsed as a way to combat heat-related emergencies.

Under Lara’s proposed legislation, California would develop a publicly accessible ranking system for heat waves with categories based on heat intensity and health impacts. The system would also provide early warnings to communities and enable prevention strategies and risk reduction measures.

Larry Kalkstein, chief science adviser to the Arsht-Rockefeller Center, described California’s plan to The Washington Post as, “This is, if not the only one, at least one of the very few meteorological warning systems that is based on the outcome. That is, how many people are going to die rather than saying it’s going to be 105 degrees.”

Lara also argued that a heat wave ranking system could assist local and state governments to better target resources, policies, and communication outreach to vulnerable communities, assist households in preparing for heat waves, all potentially reducing negative health impacts. 

According to an analysis by The Post, when a heat wave is classified under a particular category that could unlock certain public resources like the opening of public swimming pools and air-conditioned shelters. Local utilities could also be prevented from shutting off air conditioning or power for non paying households during extreme heat events.

Los Angeles isn’t the only American city attempting to innovate around heat waves, according to The Post, the Arsht-Rockefeller Center has six pilot cities attempting to implement similar legislation.


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

SCIENTISTS SAY THEY MIGHT HAVE DISCOVERED THE CAUSE OF ALZHEIMER’S

NASA SAYS HUGE, ‘POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS’ ASTEROID WILL BREAK INTO EARTH’S ORBIT NEXT WEEK

THE REAL MOBY DICK: MYTHIC WHITE WHALE CAPTURED ON FILM IN CARIBBEAN

SUPER ATHLETE REFUSES VACCINE, DIES TRAGICALLY

MODERNA CHIEF PREDICTS VACCINES COULD STRUGGLE AGAINST OMICRON

Published on Dec 02, 2021