In Europe and northern Africa, a severe heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 40ºC (104ºF) is raging on. The heat may make its way as far north as Scandinavia. We have described how heat can be dangerous before. It can cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and can cause sudden cardiac death subsequent to shock. If one’s body temperature rises to 41ºC (105.8ºF), whether it be due to fever or ambient temperatures, the victim is in critical danger. Basal metabolism raises body temperature by 1.1ºF (.6ºC) if dehydration has already occurred, or sweating is ineffective such as in very humid environments.. Those who have skin diseases are at particularly high risk, as the skin is the primary heat regulation organ. Those with other diseases, such as COPD or asthma are also at greater risk, because the lungs function to dissipate heat in temperatures below body temperature. Extreme heat, in excess of 40ºC(104ºF) can even denature proteins. They are also that for which DNA codes. Denaturing proteins means unfolding them. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that fold in such a way as to perform a specific function. When you cook a piece of steak, as you maybe did on Canada Day or the 4th of July, it turns brown and gets harder the more done it is. What is actually happening is that the steak’s proteins are slowly denaturing and reacting with sugars. It is not surprising then, that heat waves can be very deadly indeed. In 2010, a severe heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 50,000 people, and 70,000 were killed in 2003, according to a new study that suggests they are on the rise.
Not only do heat waves have a devastating effect on the human body, but they also raise the risk of wild fires. In fact, there are wildfires currently burning in Spain and Portugal. Over 1,300 people have been forced from their homes, and about 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) have burned at the time of writing. Several cars have been gutted, although fortunately, we have no reports of death or injuries at this time. Currently, there are severe heat waves on four continents. You will recall in our last report, that there is no habitable continent without drought. With such severe drought and heat waves, both linked to wildfire outbreaks, 2015 could become known as the year the world reignited.
Unfortunately, the tragic events we reported on are in no way a full reflection of what has been going on in the world. If you would like to see all of our headlines from the past week, please click here.