Heat-Wave

T

he more I live in the Netherlands (28 years now), the more I find the Dutch people quite endearing when it boils down to the summer and its temperatures.

The sheer concept of heat-wave is actually unknown to the Dutch vocabulary, though they have a word for it that is a literal translation of heat-wave: hittegolf.

This word should be practically unknown because as a matter of fact this land, with its Continental climate barely mitigated by the benign influence of the North Sea and the brackish IJsselmeer lagoon,  has very short and cool summers (if ever we get those…) that cannot even remotely be compared to any regular summer in, say, Spain, France, Italy or Greece.

Despite that, when a Dutch summer begins to look like a real one, then the Dutch go “heat-wave crazy”.

Daily debates are held on all media (including National Radio and TV!) on whether or not we will get a heat-wave; how many people will die or be hospitalized when we get it; what will be the long-term consequences; whether the Government has an emergency plan already in place and if not, why; whether or not the Police, Red-Cross, Army and whatnot are ready to cope with the chaos ensuing from such a situation; whether this is another sign of the increased greenhouse effects or actually a biblical prophecy of the nearing end.

And the list of useless discussions could go on, and on, and on…

How much time, resources and, indirectly, money are thrown into these useless discussions? My estimate would be: more than it would be required when and if an heat-wave would really hit us.

That said, it’s interesting to know that a Country with virtually no heat-waves, or real summers for that matters, has a specific definition for it, while I remember that when I lived in Italy I never heard of any “official” definition of heat-wave (and I lived in the Southern half of it, for chrissake!). Maybe this was because every period between June and September could qualify as heat-wave, making the need of a specific and scientific definition a bit superfluous, if not ridiculous.

Fact is that the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) defines a period as a heat-wave when “the maximum temperature measured by the Institute (*), reaches for at least 5 consecutive days the 25 °C (or higher), of which at least 3 days must have reached the 30°C (or higher)”.

(*) The KNMI is located in De Bilt, near Utrecht, somewhat in the middle of the Country. The discussion on where the real center of the Country is located is still ongoing and not finally decided. Maybe I’ll devote another post on this jocular topic.

So for the time being, we’ll have to wait, because the first two consecutive days with more than 25°C in De Bilt have been August 23rd (26.9°C) and August 24th (30.2°C). Today it’s again hellish warm, so we are on the good way, but I dare to wager that once again the normal Dutch summer weather (fresh and with occasional showers) will be soon reinstated and we won’t be able to meet the minimum requirements for a heat-wave, once again.

To be continued in less than three days from now…

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