23rd February 2024
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‘Heatwave Zoe’ – Seville leads the way in naming heatwaves like hurricanes

The southern Spanish city of Seville in Andalusia has become the first in the world to name and classify heatwaves – in the same way that tropical storms or hurricanes are named – with the aim to better warn and shield residents as periods of excessively hot weather become more frequent.

As the city currently struggles with 42C heat that is forecast to continue at least through Tuesday, Seville’s sophisticated meteorological data system has officially identified ‘Heatwave Zoe’. It is the very first heat event to officially be named in this way in the world, according to city weather officials.

The year-long pilot project by proMETEO Sevilla, based in one of Spain’s hottest cities, is in collaboration with the Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) in Washington DC. It is part of a broader set of measures and studies, from emissions reductions to decarbonisation, aimed at countering climate change, said Seville’s mayor, Antonio Muñoz.

The project is based on analysis of historical climate records and local health and mortality data for the city of Seville and powered by a novel algorithm that forecasts heatwaves up to 5 days in advance of a heat event and automatically categorises it based on its impact on human health and mortality.

The heatwave categories are based on the expected excess danger posed by the temperature, humidity, and conditions in the 30 days preceding it. Heatwaves designated as Category 3 events will be named in descending order form the last to first letter of the Spanish alphabet. The first five names for heatwaves reaching a Category 3 will be named: Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.

Each category – category one being the least severe to category three being the most – will trigger a distinct set of safety measures and policies, such as the opening of city pools and water parks, or the activation of a corps of community health workers tasked with checking on elderly and other at-risk individuals under the most dangerous heat conditions, to provide residents with the resources they need to protect themselves from the perils of extreme heat.

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