Heat Waves in the Age of Climate Change: Longer, More Frequent and More Dangerous – The New York Times

Story here

(possible paywall)

I was writing about this yesterday so today comes the Times with a story liberally quoting Dr. Michael Mann. There’s really nothing much for me to add, so in case you can’t read this due to paywall, I’ll take Dr. Mann’s quotes out of the story.

So you know, a warming of 1 degree Celsius, which is what we’ve seen thus far, can lead to a 10-fold increase in the frequency of 100 degree days in New York City for example.

We’re warming up the Arctic faster than the rest of the northern hemisphere. So that’s decreasing that temperature contrast from the subtropics to the pole, and it’s that temperature contrast that drives the jet stream in the first place.

That’s when you get these record breaking weather events; either the unprecedented heat wave and drought, to wildfires and floods

Now further are quotes by Eric Klinenberg, the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He found that during the 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed more than 700 people, the death tolls were highest in places that were not just poor and segregated, but what he calls “institutionally depleted.”

In a heat wave and many climate events, it’s social isolation that proves to be truly dangerous. If you’re home and alone in a heat wave when you’re old and frail you’re more likely to die if you don’t have air conditioning.

So one thing we can do today: check on your elderly neighbors, breathi ng difficulties or other conditions affected by the heat.

Climate Change Is Having a Major Impact on Global Health – Scientific American

Article here.

From the article:

Adults older than 65 are particularly at risk, as are those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Places where humans tend to live are exposed to an average temperature change that is more than twice the global average—0.8 versus 0.3 degree Celsius (graphic). There were 157 million more “heat wave exposure events” (one heat wave experienced by one person) in 2017 than in 2000. Compared with 1986 to 2005, each person was exposed to, on average, 1.4 more days of heat wave per year from 2000 to 2017. That may not seem like a lot, but as Watts notes, “someone who is 75 and suffers from kidney disease can probably survive three to four days of heat wave but not five or six.”

Scientific American

Beginning tomorrow, Pittsburgh will be under a heat advisory until the end of Saturday. Heat indices will rise to between 100-105 degrees on both days. Sunday will be no picnic either with a high near 90, high humidity and a good chance of thunderstorms. All it does here is rain.

My thermostat – too low?

My house has air conditioning and I hang out in the basement, the coolest part of the house. The house was built in 1955 so it’s not that insulated. The thing is, I can be in the basement and still not feel quite right. When it’s hot and humid outside, it’s like a get a ‘weather knee’ of sorts that manifests itself as low level anxiety.

For some reason, I don’t get this sensation for cold and snowy times in the winter. To me those are kind of exciting, perhaps because they remind me of getting snow days from school. But the heat – it’s a fearsome thing to me. I can’t be outside exposed to the sun on hot days for more than 20-25 minutes or I will get nauseated and it will last all day. A big hat and plenty of water help, but only so much.

I work at a VA hospital and we take extra precautions for our patients and staff during these times. The Veterans, many of them who love to be outdoors, must be kept in. Landscaping employees observe precautions.

I have a corner office with windows on two sides – large ones from the 1920s when the building was erected. The sun streams through and taxes the air conditioning. I can sit there and feel the battle between the system and the sunlight. Tomorrow will be a struggle. I will dress in the lightest clothes.

My wife works for a bank in the near downtown area. Their air condition is in full failure mode. The bank has brought in an army of fans and portable air conditioning units but they’re fighting a losing battle. Temps in the office have been into the upper 80s. Management has taken the unprecedented step of letting employees wear shorts. They have also instituted alternative work schedules to allow employees to avoid the worst of the heat. Nevertheless, my wife has been miserable.

It was Europe’s turn three weeks ago and The East Coast’s turn last week. So far these hot spells have been moderately severe, but fairly short lived. Scientists say that will change in the coming years.

What we are experiencing here are mild annoyances for relatively healthy people. The elderly and other affected by the heat will have cooling shelters to go to in the area.

And yet, the effects are noticeable and worrying. What will happen to us when the heat waves last for weeks rather than days? Will the electric systems keep up? Will there be more deaths because of the lack of A/C in people homes? The Scientific American article goes into good detail of all of the possible impacts on daily life.

How does one get mentally prepared for the future heat waves? I’m giving that a lot of thought tonight.