Mercury rising: new tool to help Australians cool off

Australians are feeling the burn as the impacts of climate change radiate across the nation but a new tool could take some of the heat off local communities.

Extremely high temperatures leads to more deaths and hospital admissions than any other hazard in Australia through risks such as heat exhaustion or stroke and thousands die every year around the world in heat waves.

Heat exposure can also increase the risk of serious illnesses including heart and respiratory issues or death. 

And the heat is unlikely to let up after March broke global temperature records for the tenth month in a row. 

But a new national heat index map will be released on Friday to help communities and decision-makers across the country prepare and respond to extreme heat.

People cooling off in the ocean.
The new tool will help identify ways people can seek refuge from the heat.

Assistant minister for climate change and energy Jenny McAllister said the tool would improve understandings of climate risk and bolster climate adaptation efforts.

"Australians know climate change is real," she said.

Developed by the Australian Climate Service, the index creates a risk score for communities by using data such as housing, access to transportation, socio-economic status and considers factors including vegetation and services.

This helps local areas identify areas most at risk of heat stress, allowing them to tailor their response and create solutions that best fit their needs.

For example, the information could show locations for cool refuges such as libraries, or identify areas where a green canopy could be planted.

The index draws on climate projections and expertise from the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, with built environment information from Geoscience Australia and data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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