Defining and predicting heat waves in Bangladesh

Nissan, Hannah J.; Burkart, Katrin; Coughlan de Perez, Erin R.; van Aalst, Maarten K.; Mason, Simon J.

This paper proposes a heat-wave definition for Bangladesh that could be used to trigger preparedness measures in a heat early warning system (HEWS) and explores the climate mechanisms associated with heat waves. A HEWS requires a definition of heat waves that is both related to human health outcomes and forecastable. No such definition has been developed for Bangladesh. Using a generalized additive regression model, a heat-wave definition is proposed that requires elevated minimum and maximum daily temperatures over the 95th percentile for 3 consecutive days, confirming the importance of nighttime conditions for health impacts. By this definition, death rates increase by about 20% during heat waves; this result can be used as an argument for public-health interventions to prevent heat-related deaths. Furthermore, predictability of these heat waves exists from weather to seasonal time scales, offering opportunities for a range of preparedness measures. Heat waves are associated with an absence of normal premonsoonal rainfall brought about by anomalously strong low-level westerly winds and weak southerlies, detectable up to approximately 10 days in advance. This circulation pattern occurs over a background of drier-than-normal conditions, with below-average soil moisture and precipitation throughout the heat-wave season from April to June. Low soil moisture increases the odds of heat-wave occurrence for 10–30 days, indicating that subseasonal forecasts of heat-wave risk may be possible by monitoring soil-moisture conditions.

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Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology

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