The Malta Independent 13 December 2017, Wednesday

Current heatwave is mildest one in recent years but longest since 1960 – Met office

Joanna Demarco Wednesday, 9 August 2017, 09:03 Last update: about 5 months ago

Though the current heat may feel more intense than ever before, the heatwave we are currently struggling with is actually the mildest one in recent years, although it is also the longest since 1960, according to information by the Meteorological  Office.

“The hottest heatwave was in 1999, when the mercury hit 43.8 degrees Celsius,” the office said, replying to questions by The Malta Independent. “The current heatwave is however the longest we have experienced since 1960, with its duration being estimated at eight days, based on the current forecast.” 

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In 1999, the hottest heatwave lasted four days, between 8 and 11 August, reaching a maximum of 43.8 degrees Celsius. Heatwaves hotter than the one we are currently experiencing were also present in the years 2012, and before that in 2002. In 2012, the heatwave climaxed to a 40.8 degrees Celsius heat, and lasted three days, between 7 and 9 August. The heatwave in 2000 lasted six days, between 21 and 26 August, when it reached a high of 40.4 degrees Celsius.

With a whole year passing between one hot summer and the other, we can sometimes forget how hot the previous summer really was. However, when comparing this summer to the last, it is right to say that this summer is hotter than the last, according to the Met office.

“When comparing the mean maximum temperatures for June and July 2016 compared to the same period this year, the start of summer was milder last year, with 2017’s mean temperatures rising by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius,” the Met office said.

This long-lasting heatwave has also caused the national demand for electricity to reach an all-time high. As this newspaper reported yesterday, over the last few days, the electricity load peaked at a staggering 460 megawatts at the greatest quantity of energy distributed through the national electricity network, according to a spokesperson from Enemalta plc.

As expected, farmers have noticed the longer duration of the heatwave. “We didn’t used to have such strong heatwaves lasting a week,” one farmer told The Malta Independent. This longer lasting heatwave has resulted in an increase in water use in order to minimize the effects on crops.

A warning issued by the health division this week advised the public not to stay in the sun between 10am and 4pm, and to remain in the coolest parts of homes and buildings. They also advised to drink plenty of water on a regular basis. The current heatwave has been called “Lucifer”, after having gripped southern Europe, causing wildfires, damaging crops and straining energy supplies amongst other things.  

The Malta International Airport services has advised the public to drink plenty of water, even when not feeling thirsty, avoid drinks containing alcohol, sugars, and caffeine, as these can have a dehydrating effect, limit exposure to direct sunlight and avoid dark-coloured clothing and synthetic materials.

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