A strengthening upper level ridge across the Central and Eastern United States is resulting in sweltering heat and dangerous conditions across the eastern two thirds of the country. Widespread excessive heat warnings, watches, and heat advisories are in effect, with daytime highs in the 90s to above 100 are expected. These high temperatures, combined with dewpoints soaring into the mid to upper 70s will result in over 70 million people experiencing heat indices over 100 degrees! The heat index is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored into the actual air temperature.
The air cannot drop below the dew point…which means that the higher the dew point, the higher the temperatures. With dew points so high during the day, it will be difficult for us to find much respite from the heat in the overnight hours. In some parts of the country, the overnight low temperatures may not drop below 80 degrees! (Although it could always be worse… following a true scorcher that peaked at 121.6 degrees on June 26, 2018, temperatures in Quriyat, Oman fell to the hottest “low” temperature ever recorded in history – 108.7 degrees!)
One question I have been asked a few times recently is whether this heat wave is caused by climate change. And truthfully, the answer is yes and no. Hot weather is nothing new, and in some places they will not shatter old records. “The meteorological ingredients that make heat waves today are the same ingredients that made them in the past, but climate change is bringing those ingredients together more often, generally speaking,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch of the National Centers for Environmental Information. The worldwide temperature for June 2019 was the hottest ever recorded! The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report by from 13 federal agencies, notes that while the peak of extreme heat in the United States occurred during the 1930s Dust Bowl, the number of hot days is increasing, and the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. This is all part of an overall warming trend, with five of the warmest years on record occurring in the last five years, and 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.
Unfortunately, heat waves tend to bring the most severe impacts when the overnight lows are well above normal because there is no relief for people’s homes or bodies to cool down. Heat is also the number one cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States. Last year, 108 people died from extreme heat. Everyone is sensitive to heat, but there are some people that are particularly vulnerable to the hot weather, such as the elderly, infants and children, those taking certain medications (such as diuretics) and those with certain pre-existing conditions. Check out the list below for tips on how to beat the heat!
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you do not have air conditioning, try to find a local cooling center. You can usually find this information on your state’s Department of Health website. For New York state, that information is located here.
- If a cooling center is not available, libraries, supermarkets, malls, and community swimming pools are great places to stay cool.
- Do not rely as a fan as your primary cooling device during extreme heat events.
- Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Water is your best bet for hydration – most people don’t need to drink sports drinks, which generally have added sugars.
- The CDC advises bringing water with you wherever you go. This can save your life by helping you to avoid dangerous situations (such as having your car break down on a hot road)
- Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone check on you (especially those vulnerable groups we mentioned earlier!
- Plan your meals out so that you can avoid using the stove or oven to cook – it will make you and your house hotter.
- Summer salads with fresh veggies are one of my favorite meals, but smaller items like slow cookers and tabletop grills can help keep the kitchen heat lower when cooking.
- Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car.
- Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- When outdoors, consider adding a wide-brimmed hat, and always use sunscreen.
- Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, but also hinders your body’s ability to cool itself.
- If working outdoors is necessary, aim to plan your time outside for the early mornings.
- Seek medical care immediately if your child has symptoms of heat-related stress.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest weather forecast for your area.
Several cities are on track to break or challenge historical records. For example, Manchester, New Hampshire’s daily record high for July 20 is 94 degrees Fahrenheit, and its all-time record for the hottest temperature (103!) was set on July 22, 2011. Philadelphia is also on track to shatter its daily high of 97 this Saturday with a forecast high of 100! Dozens of high minimum temperature records are also forecast to be set. Fortunately, once we make it through this heat wave, relief is on the way! Below normal temperatures are favored during the 6-10 day and 8-14 day temperature outlooks.