Heatwaves and heat health

A heatwave is characterised by three or more days of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for the affected location. In the last 200 years, severe and extreme heatwaves have taken more lives than any other natural hazard in Australia.

Violent weather events, such as tornadoes, floods, cyclones or severe thunderstorms tend to create a lot of media attention, including reporting on how many people lost their life or were injured. Heatwaves are not associated with these violent events, and therefore tend to not be reported in the media to the same extent. However, heatwaves can result in significant health stress on vulnerable people. This stress may result in death during the heat event but in many cases this can occur well after the heatwave has passed. Often the cause of death during a heatwave is difficult to determine, as many people who die during a heatwave have a pre-existing or contributing health condition.

This information, and the select FAQs below, have been sourced from information about the Bureau of Meteorology's Heatwave Service.