The hot weather last week certainly made some people wonder whether the Japanese archipelago is experiencing the effects of global warming. On Aug. 16, the city of Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture and the city of Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture registered the highest temperature — 40.9 C — in the history of the Meteorological Agency’s weather observations, topping the past record of 40.8 C registered in Yamagata City in 1933.

Twelve people across the nation died of heatstroke Aug. 16, and 16 more people perished the next day. Tokyo Fire Department ambulances ferried 161 people suffering from heatstroke to hospitals Aug. 16 — a record number for one day since the statistics were first taken in 1997. The past record was registered on July 21, 2004, when 54 heatstroke victims were taken to hospitals.

Although the extremely hot weather of last week is gone, people should continue to take precautions to avoid heatstroke. Employers should take adequate measures to protect workers at construction sites and other outdoor locations. People should avoid doing strenuous activities outside and shield themselves from the sun’s rays by wearing hats or using parasols. People should also prevent dehydration by consuming plenty of fluids such as sports drinks or water with a little salt, but alcohol should be avoided.

Unfortunately, there is no way to bring a quick end to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation will likely become more frequent. But both the government and the private sector can make life more comfortable for city dwellers by reducing the “urban heat island” phenomenon. They should plant more trees in urban areas and utilize recycled water to dissipate heat, and prohibit the construction of tall buildings that block cooling winds.

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