Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Experts pan ‘heat wave leave’ idea

Staff writer, with CNA

Meteorological experts yesterday said it would be difficult for Taiwan to introduce “heat wave leave,” which has been advocated following days of scorching temperatures.

The impact of a heat wave depends on people’s jobs and lifestyles, which makes it hard to find a solution that suits everyone, said Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明), chief executive of WeatherRisk Explore Inc and an atmospheric science professor at National Central University.

“I can’t imagine white-collar workers sitting in an air-conditioned room taking heat wave leave,” said Peng, who stressed that sufficient warning and close monitoring of temperatures are the keys to preventing heat-related health threats.

Those most likely to be affected by the heat are laborers in metropolitan areas, where the urban heat island effect could add to health risks, he said.

Peng suggested that a more flexible solution would be to extend workers’ break times at noon and make up the time at the beginning or end of their shifts.

Temperatures in Taipei set highs for this year on three consecutive days recently, peaking at 38.3?C on Tuesday. The stifling heat has prompted discussion about whether Taiwan should establish a local heat index and adjust work schedules accordingly.

According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) guidelines, a heat wave occurs when the daily maximum temperature exceeds the average monthly maximum temperature by 5?C for more than five consecutive days.

When applied to Taipei, the standard would require the city to experience temperatures of 39.3?C for at least five days in a row for a heat wave to be declared.

However, even the establishment of such an advisory system does not seem practical, said Cheng Ming-dean (鄭明典), director of the Central Weather Bureau’s Weather Forecast Center.

That is because Taiwan has a less extreme marine tropical climate and more tests are needed before health organizations can clearly identify the effect of heat on human bodies, he said.

“The hot weather we have seen recently is rather an outlier from a statistical point of view,” he said. “Plus, it is rare to see health problems caused by extreme heat, which usually only exists for relatively brief periods in Taiwan.”

Cheng said the bureau has been soliciting opinions from academics and applying a model to measure heat threats to further understand Taiwan’s sweltering temperatures.

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