What Is A Heat Apocalypse?

There's no ignoring it — almost anywhere you live on planet Earth, temperatures are becoming more and more extreme with every passing year. Scorching heat waves will worsen as climate change pushes humanity to endure an increasingly harsh world, and it's only going to get hotter from here on out (via The Boston Globe). So how will we know if and when humanity enters the "heat apocalypse"?

According to NASA, global temperatures are currently the highest they have ever been in recent history, or at least since 1880, when scientists began keeping records of the weather. The Boston Globe reports that the problem isn't just the heat — it's that high levels of heat can lead to all kinds of other emergencies that compound the problem.

BBC reports that for the first time ever, in July 2022, a red extreme heat warning was issued to citizens of most of England. In the United Kingdom, temperatures have never spiked higher than 102 degrees. But the red extreme heat warning advised residents that temperatures could reach a new high of 106 degrees. And it isn't only Europe — temperatures are steadily rising across the entire world.

Britain's roads are melting

Scientists warn that high heat levels will increasingly disrupt regular life (via BBC). It will undoubtedly affect many people, who will have to alter their lives to accommodate extreme weather. And the new heat waves will affect buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. Public transportation in the United Kingdom is shutting down for the day to avoid undue stress on trains and buses; local theaters have to close because they can't provide adequate temperate control for patrons; and officials estimate that EMTs will be overburdened as extreme heat causes more health emergencies than usual.

The Washington Post reports other hellish conditions: The roads in Britain are literally melting. Hammersmith Bridge, which spans the River Thames, is being foil-wrapped to prevent its iron bars from snapping under the stress of the heat wave. Train tracks are in danger of warping or cracking, so service is slowed. The temperatures are totally unheard of, and Europeans are caught off guard by the severe weather.

This extreme heat can kill a healthy person

CNN reports that we can expect three times the amount of heat deaths in the United Kingdom by 2050. Even in recent years, European homes are not always built to withstand the most extreme of temperatures, making it hard to find relief from brutal heat waves.

According to The Washington Post, Italy is in a state of emergency from a devastating drought, while France, Spain, and Portugal are experiencing severe wildfires that have easily consumed acres of land. And at the same time, temperatures are soaring between 104 degrees to 110 degrees — so hot that a level-four heat alert was issued to warn that even perfectly healthy people could become sick or die from the heat.

Instances of scorching temperatures are going to become five times more common in the coming years, according to Rolling Stone. Heat is just one obstacle that humans are facing: There are also floods, hurricanes, fires, and storms that are exacerbated by extreme temperatures. Who could forget 2021's intense American West Coast wildfires, which lasted weeks as temperatures soared and strong winds spread the fires over hundreds of miles (via the United States Census Bureau)?

What is the wet bulb temperature?

Right now, Europe is experiencing not only high temperatures but also massive forest fires that have caused 24,000 people to evacuate their homes (via BBC). According to The Guardian, people who have to relocate because of the effects of climate change are called climate change refugees, a growing segment of the population.

The real heat apocalypse will be measured with the effects of wet-bulb temperatures, according to NBC News. Wet bulb measurements add the temperature plus the humidity level. If you've ever slogged through a sticky, super-humid environment, you know that humidity plays a huge factor in one's comfort level. If you physically can't sweat because the wet bulb temperature rises above 97 degrees, you can literally die just from the inability to cool your body down. 

Scientists know that wet bulb temperatures will continue to rise and will result in unprecedented numbers of fatalities. That's a pretty apocalyptic prediction.

'A blinking code red'

The White House, too, warned which groups of people would be especially affected by extreme heat. Disadvantaged communities with fewer resources to deal with the heat will be impacted, as will kids whose schools aren't air-conditioned and millions of workers who labor in triple-digit temperatures. President Joe Biden called the heat situation "a blinking code red for our nation," echoing the dire warnings from Europe.

As the past few years have demonstrated, it doesn't seem to be getting colder on planet Earth any time soon. The heat apocalypse is already here, and it's currently hitting the United Kingdom hard (via BBC). The Guardian reports that a French meteorologist named François Gourand declared a heat apocalypse in southwest France on July 18, 2022. While there isn't an official definition of a "heat apocalypse" yet, the five-alarm weather conditions humanity is currently facing would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago (via The Washington Post). In 2022, farmers in France had to deal with frost affecting their crops, then record-breaking heat, then a drought followed by hail and heavy rain, topped off with another drought — all in a single year. 

We're not prepared for the heat apocalypse

So how can you prepare for the heat apocalypse? According to the Red Cross, it's important to have at least two weeks' worth of water, food, and necessary medications, just in case the heat wave prevents you from stepping outside. Hydrate often, avoid alcohol, and keep your home cool with air conditioning and window and door strips. Check on your neighbors, and keep an eye on pets, children, and those with disabilities to make sure they're not experiencing heat stroke or heat exhaustion. It also helps to know the signs of heat-related issues, like heavy sweating and clammy skin. 

Rolling Stone reports that deaths due to extreme heat are the number one cause of weather-related deaths, and governments across the world are scrambling to implement new infrastructure and provide help to citizens. United States President Joe Biden summed it up in a White House statement, writing, "While we have all seen the graphic and heart-wrenching images of superstorms, wildfires, and floods in recent weeks, another climate disaster is lurking just below the radar: extreme heat."

The Washington Post reports that the British weather service's chief operating officer, ​​Penny Endersby, echoed his ominous warning, saying, "Our lifestyles and our infrastructure are not adapted to what is coming."