This year, the El Niño heatwave was the worst in 18 years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), tying with that in 1997 and 1998. We Malaysians could certainly testify to that, as we have grumbled enough that “the air-con has no effect or tak ada rasa” many times in the last few weeks while fanning ourselves hard!
El Niño… problemo!
The El Niño is actually a natural phenomenon. Simply put, it describes a situation in which the water of the Pacific Ocean near the equator gets warmer than usual. The NOAA describes it as “a 3-month average warming of at least 0.5°C (0.9°F) in a specific area of the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean”.
The NOAA recently released data which shows that February was 1.35°C warmer than any previous recorded temperature for February since 1980, higher than January’s 1.14°C, which was an all-high for temperatures recorded in January since 1980. This year is the hottest year ever – literally.
Already, climate scientists all over the world are speculating whether we may be approaching global warming faster than anticipated.
High temperatures have been known to cause health problems as a result of dehydration, overheating (heat exhaustion) and, in more serious cases, heat stroke (fever and even fainting caused by the body being unable to cope with the high temperature) which can lead to brain damage. Especially at risk are young children, the elderly and those who with existing health problems such as heart diseases and breathing difficulties.
Here are some tips to help you keep the temperature down to a more comfortable degree and keep potential health complications at bay.
Turn on the coolers.
If you don’t have air-conditioning, switch on the fans, and during cooler times of the day, open the windows and door to let the fans “push” the warm air out of the house.
If things get too hot, take more baths. You can also fill a spray bottle with ice water for a refreshing spray at the face or other parts of your skin when the need arises.
Turn them off.
Switch off electrical appliances that are not in use (such as the TV, the computer, lights, etc.)
Watch out for symptoms.
If you have high body temperature along with nausea or lightheadedness, or if you experience rapid heartbeats or rapid breathing, see a doctor as you may be experiencing a heat stroke.
Most importantly, drink, drink, drink.
Normally, we should drink 8 glasses of water a day – up this amount for those hot days, especially after physical activity or while recovering from an illness.
If you have pets, don’t forget that they too would feel the impact of all this heat. Give them frequent baths, let them rest on a cool cloth and make sure that they always have plenty of water to drink.
Reduce Global Warming
The El Niño heatwave of 2016 may just be a sign that it is time for us to play our parts in reducing global warming.
Not all of us can to afford to buy electric cars or quit jobs that contribute to global warming, but there are other things that we can do. They may not seem much, but a little effort from many people can still go a long way in making a significant difference. Plus, most of these tips also help you save money in the long run!
Whenever possible, use public transport instead of driving.
Service your car regularly.
This improves the efficiency of petrol use by your car, thus saving you money and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
Buy “green” appliances.
“Green” appliances are designed to consume less electricity and produce less greenhouse gases and other wastes.
Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
They last longer, consume less electricity and produce less carbon dioxide – the better choice for your home lighting.
Make your voice heard.
Write to your neighbourhood elected officials or Majlis Perbandaran if you wish to see certain environmental-friendly practices implemented. These days, you can gather the support of like-minded people using online petitions, Facebook groups and more – coming together to make a change is easier than you think!
Natural Resources Defense Council. Available at www.ndrc.org
NHS Choices. Available at www.nhs.uk
The Weather Channel. Available at www.weather.com