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It is the first day of summer, and already the weather bureau is warning of severe heatwave conditions across southern parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

But experts are warning people to be careful of heatwaves, saying they are a natural disaster responsible for killing the largest number of people in Australia.

Dr Thomas Loridan — a scientist from research company Risk Frontiers — said many people did not fully understand the dangers heatwaves pose.

“Heatwaves are a natural disaster that are not as spectacular as tropical cyclones or bushfires,” he said.

“Our perception is that it is not as dangerous. However, during [Black Saturday] in 2009 in Melbourne we had probably twice as many deaths from the heatwave than from the bushfire that happened at the same time.”

Classifying exactly what a heatwave is or is not has long been a topic of discussion among scientists, and it has proven difficult for researchers to reach a consensus as to what a “heatwave event” is.


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