Vol. 19, No. 32

May 25, 2000

Heat/health alert system creator addresses WMO

The developer of the Heat/Health Warning System, Laurence Kalkstein, geography, today urged the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to actively support the installation of the alert system in cities across the globe. He addressed the WMO executive council meeting today, May 25, in Geneva.

WMO is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Kalkstein and French meteorologist Marie-Lise Chanin were chosen to address the group from thousands of scientists who are members of the 185 meteorological organizations represented by the UN agency.

WMO asked Chanin to make her presentation on ozone and its impact on climate change and Kalkstein on links between weather, climate and health.

Kalkstein stated that numerous forecasts for warmer weather over the next century underscore the urgency for a worldwide warning system, since "...only several hours of unusually hot weather can lead to markedly increased death rates, upswings in hospital admissions and increases in the number of individuals suffering from mental stress and depression. Research we have performed in China, Canada, Egypt, Italy and the USA all support this range of tolerance concept."

The heat/health alert system is now in use in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and within the next few months, will be used in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. Later, this summer, it goes international, first in Rome, then next summer in Shanghai.

The computer-generated calculations that trigger the alert system analyze data that represents historical relationships between heat-related mortality and weather conditions.

- Barbara Garrison