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Heatwave thresholds are being raised

Jason Freeman | 29 Mar, 2022 | Return|


Heatwave thresholds are being raised

But is moving the goalposts the right way to address climate change?

In a press release issued at 00:15 last night, the Met Office announced that heatwave thresholds are to be updated ahead of summer 2022. Put simply this means that it will have to become hotter this year than last, in order for a heatwave to be declared. We could see three days in a row of temperatures that would have qualified as a heatwave in 2021, and this summer they will simply be unremarkable. Just normal weather for the time of year. Nothing to see here. Move along, sweaty.

The Met Office says that the thresholds were always intended to be flexible and should be revised regularly to reflect the current climate. If this is the case, why is this the first time they have been changed? And how often can we expect them to change in future? 

Ammunition for the naysayers

Although the tone of the press release and the data within it seem to unequivocally state that man-made climate change is happening and cannot be denied, the action being taken will be used by sceptics to prove their point in 280 characters or less for years to come. It is easy to imagine a tweet that says, “If climate change is real, how come we have fewer heatwaves now than we did five years ago?” No one will care that in reality the answer is that the definition of a heatwave was changed. All that will happen is the like button will be hit by those the message resonates with, until the erroneous conclusion is carried on an amplified wave of self-righteousness over the walls of the echo chamber and out into the wider consciousness.

Making science subjective is a fool’s errand

Just as scribbling new numbers on a thermometer does not change the actual boiling point of water, saying three days of 27°C is not a heatwave does not actually lessen the likelihood of heatstroke. We can move the definitions as much as we want. We can even state that we believe a day’s weather is average as we fry eggs on the pavement, but heat is heat. 


It is always a mistake to move goalposts. Not only does it make meaningful comparisons between data impossible, it also opens an organisation up to all kinds of conspiracy theories. It is hard to trust a body that is supposed to report factual information and provide the very data that is needed for scientific study to take place, if that body manipulates the way the data is measured or recorded. 

The Met Office knows this. That’s why the press release was issued in the middle of the night. It may even be the case that the announcement was so sheepish because some being asked to participate were not really on board.

It will be interesting to see how the press picks the story up and how the public reacts. There may be many out there who find themselves hot under the collar.

About the Author

Jason Freeman

Jason Freeman

As a hands-on company director, Jason inspires our team with his visionary approach to marketing coupled with his impressive technical expertise. A stickler for detail with an eye for design and a talent for writing, Jason is as adept at creating eye-catching marketing material as he is at planning the strategies behind goal-surpassing marketing campaigns.

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