Heatwaves, with particular reference to Australia (includes bibliography)

Essay by absydabsyUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, June 2006

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Whilst most people associate natural hazards with more visually dramatic events, such as a roaring bushfire or the sensationalism of a cyclone, there is a much more deadly silent hazard which is devastating to living and unliving.


Heatwaves pose a significant risk to the human and non human environment, yet largely go unnoticed due to the heatwaves ambiguous nature. Significant numbers of deaths have been the direct of heatwaves, but rarely attracting much attention.

Due to the indistinct nature of heatwaves, and the variations in definitions, heatwaves are a difficult hazard to manage. Also, there is little information gathered on specific details of heat wave effects, such as cost to the individual, as it is typically gathered on a large scale. For example, the total annual losses to agriculture as a result of extreme temperature rises may not necessarily be directly caused by a heatwave but another factor. Some losses may also go unaccounted for, such as heart failure, aggravated by the temperature.

Discrepancies in recording the effects of heatwave make it increasingly difficult for geographers and officials to identify and manage the heat waves.

Outline of hazard

A heatwave is a significant rise in temperature which can last over days or weeks. There are difficulties in defining the specific conditions of a heatwave, as the meaning of "excessive heat" can be widely disputed.

An article from the United Kingdom's, BBC News, highlights the variations in the definition of heatwaves according to country:

"Statistics released on Friday show there were 2,045 more deaths than usual from 4 to 13 August, during which temperatures were above 30C."

This comment in contrast to the temperatures experienced in an Australian summer, highlight regional difficulties associated with heatwaves and their management.

Heatwaves are often hard to detect and monitor, as deaths are not...