Seville Mayor Juan Espadas announces heatwave naming and categorization initiative
SEVILLE, SPAIN — October 18, 2021 — At a live press conference today at 2:00 pm CEST/8:00 am EDT following the event, Mayor Juan Espadas of Seville, Spain, with words of endorsement from Valvanera Ulargui, Director of the National Government Agency for Climate Change, announced plans to name and categorize heat waves. The announcement cements heat’s position among Seville’s chief climate threats and earns Mayor Espadas the distinction of becoming the first elected official in history to give extreme heat the same meteorological treatment and deference that hurricanes and tropical storms command in many parts of the world.
“Extreme heat waves are becoming more frequent and devastating as a direct effect from climate change. Local governments should address the threat heat poses to our populations, particularly the most vulnerable, by raising awareness of heat-health related hazards through evidence based data and science. Seville is proud to become the first city in the world to develop and implement a heat wave naming and categorization system that aims at saving thousands of lives and we encourage other cities in the world to also undertake this great endeavor,” said Mayor Espadas.
Mayor Juan Espadas
The City of Seville is collaborating with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), its Science Advisory Panel – comprising leading climatologists and public health, disaster relief, and social and behavioral scientists – and AEMET, Spain’s meteorological agency, the Spanish Agency for Climate Change, the University of Sevilla, and the Pablo de Olavide University, to develop the methodology behind a formal naming and categorization system for heat waves, which will commence in 2022. Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP and director of Arsht-Rock Center and Mauricio Rodas, former Mayor of Quito, Atlantic Council fellow, and lead for Arsht-Rock’s Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance, City Champions for Heat Action initiative, also spoke at today’s event alongside the Mayor.
This methodology will categorize and name heat waves on the basis of their impact on human health, since heat is one of the major weather-related killers in Seville and other cities in Europe. This will permit local officials to implement specific policies, such as opening air conditioned shelters or adding extra staff to emergency rooms, when heat waves are ranked highly because they are expected to be associated with large negative health outcomes. Categorizing dangerous meteorological events based upon health impact is unique and important in developing proper means to deal with their damaging effects.
It will also serve as an integral component of the City’s emergency and disaster response planning. In parallel, the City will create a public awareness campaign to better communicate the dangers of extreme heat, the resources available, and specific actions that can be taken to protect its citizenry from the mounting threats of extreme heat.
“Heat waves, have been dubbed ‘the silent killer’ for a reason: They wreak unseen havoc on our economies, prey on the most vulnerable members of society, and kill more people than any other climate-driven hazard, yet the dangers they pose are grossly underestimated and gravely misunderstood,” said Baughman McLeod. “We applaud Mayor Espadas for the bold step he is taking to protect Seville’s people from the devastating impacts of extreme heat. Naming and categorizing heat waves will go a long way towards giving people and municipalities a fighting chance against heat, building a culture of awareness and saving lives.”
Naming and categorizing heat waves will go a long way towards giving people and municipalities a fighting chance against heat, building a culture of awareness and saving lives.”
Senior Vice President and Director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Kathy Baughman McLeod
Seville is located in the Andalusia region, which is among the hottest regions in Spain, where temperatures easily soar above 40°C or 104°F. This past summer, when much of Europe endured prolonged and record-setting heat waves. Montoro, a city of about 9,500 people in southern Spain, reached and unprecedented 47.3°C (117.3°F) – the highest temperature ever to be recorded in the country. This is why the effort of developing a naming and categorization system in Seville is so remarkable, not only to address public health issues related to heat, but also to develop resilience capacity building, protect jobs and foster economic growth.