NEW YORK - After a scorching summer, Greece is considering naming heat waves much like how we name hurricanes here in the United States. But the move is not likely to happen in the United States, according to David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University.
"We're a bigger country than Greece, where they can set one standard for a heat wave, which I believe they're going to look at 40 degrees Celsius, which is 104 degrees Fahrenheit," Robinson said. "A heat wave in New Orleans is very different than the heat wave in Minneapolis or in New York City. Heat is a big killer — it kills more people every year than hurricanes, tornadoes, and cold, for that matter — it's a very serious, serious situation."
The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center is pushing to name heat waves, saying the move could save lives.
"Extreme heat is killing more Americans than any other climate hazard. It's called the silent killer because it's not recognized for the threat that it is," the organization said in a statement to FOX5 NY. "We believe that naming and categorizing heat waves is an easily understood trigger that will prompt action and convey the seriousness of this threat — and save lives. People do not have to die from heat."
Meanwhile, Robinson stressed that better communication is vitally important but doesn't believe assigning heat waves official names is a viable option at the moment.
"I'm not convinced naming these particular events is going to work," Robinson said. "A tropical storm has its certain criteria. A hurricane has very fixed criteria."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the National Weather Service is working to make its messaging about extreme heat clearer and easier to understand.
"If there's one certainty with that change in climate is it's going to get warmer, there's going to be more extremes," Robinson. "We don't know the exact magnitude of any of them because we don't know how much we're going to continue to pollute the environment. But there's one thing you can take to the bank. It is going to continue to get warmer."
"Our oceans are getting warmer, our atmosphere is getting warmer and we're going to be facing that in the decades ahead," he added. "But it doesn't mean we still can't put the brakes on it a little bit by being more responsible and trying to curb the increasing heat that's around us. But, yeah, we're going to have to learn to adapt better and with that be better educated and better aware and better informed."
Extreme heat kills 5 million people around the world per year, according to a study in the Lancet Journal of Planetary Health.