New BoM tool helps plan for heatwaves

by Dave Bullard
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As Australia struggles through a sweltering start to the new year, a new Bureau of Meteorology tool showing heatwave forecasts is set to make life easier for facility managers needing to implement extreme-weather action plans.

The Pilot Heatwave Forecast is a set of graphical maps showing the location of heatwaves, severe heatwaves and extreme heatwaves for the current day and the following four days. Each map shows areas where Heatwave conditions are forecast to occur and indicates whether their intensity is expected to reach Severe or Extreme status.

In releasing the tool, the BoM has, for the first time, defined exactly what a heatwave is. Now its says it’s “three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that is unusual for that location”. It has also categorised conditions of ‘heatwave’, ‘severe heatwave’ and ‘extreme heatwave’, shown on the maps as yellow, orange and red, respectively. The definitions are:

  • Heatwave – Expect unusually hot conditions sustained for three days. The level of heat expected is unusual but injury to people is not generally expected unless inappropriate activities are conducted or sensible precautions are not are undertaken.
  • Severe Heatwave – Vulnerable people are at risk of injury.
  • Extreme Heatwave – Likely to cause impact across multiple areas such as infrastructure, transport, energy, agriculture and both healthy and vulnerable people are at risk of injury.

The BoM says it will evaluate this year’s forecast maps for accuracy at the end of summer and hold a workshop with members of the health and emergency sectors to consider the maps’ relevance and ideas for a more comprehensive heatwave warning system.

Click here to see the pilot Heatwave Forecast

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