CLIMATEWIRE | The world’s first named heat wave hit Seville, Spain, this week, pushing temperatures past 110 degrees Fahrenheit and earning the most severe tier in the city’s new heat wave ranking system.

Heat wave “Zoe” has brought scorching temperatures to the southern part of the country for the last few days, particularly the region of Andalusia where Seville is located. Even in the evenings, the Spanish meteorological service recorded temperatures that hovered in the mid-80s in some areas — an extra stress on the human body, which relies on cooler nights to recover from high daytime heat.

Zoe is the first named heat wave to hit Seville since it officially launched a new pilot program last month for naming and ranking heat waves, similar to hurricanes (Climatewire, June 22). Only the most severe heat waves get names, designated this year in reverse alphabetical order. After Zoe, comes Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.

The worst of the heat is expected to begin tapering off today. But it has posed a significant risk to human health while it’s lasted, according to proMETEO Sevilla, Seville’s new heat wave ranking system.

The program is a collaboration between the city of Seville and the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), with other partners including the Spanish Office for Climate Change and several Spanish universities and research institutes. It takes a three-tiered approach to categorizing heat waves in Seville, with Category 1 as the lowest ranking and Category 3 as the most severe.

The system has specific criteria for each category, involving not only daytime temperatures, but also nighttime lows, humidity and the heat’s expected effects on human health. Each tier triggers a set of emergency response services, like issuing weather alerts, opening cooling centers and dispatching community health teams to check on vulnerable populations.

Spain has been grappling with extreme temperatures for much of the summer already. High heat broke local records around the country last month, and the first two weeks of June were the hottest on record in the country, according to the Spanish meteorological service.

Across the continent, this year was Europe’s second hottest June on record, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Extreme heat returned again earlier this month. Cities across Spain broke monthly temperature records and wildfires sprang up on the landscape.

Record-breaking temperatures also roasted other parts of Western Europe, where heat waves are intensifying as much as four times faster than they are elsewhere in the midlatitudes (Climatewire, July 18). Temperatures in the United Kingdom skyrocketed above 104 degrees, breaking the country’s all-time temperature record multiple times in a single day (Climatewire, July 20).

Climate change is causing heat waves to become more frequent, more intense and longer-lasting all over the world, increasing the risks to human health. Seville’s new naming and ranking system is intended to heighten public awareness about the dangers of extreme heat.

It’s currently the only system with a naming component. But other cities are following suit with similar ranking programs. Athens, Greece, recently announced a new system for categorizing heat waves, while several cities across the United States are launching similar pilot programs of their own, including Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.