Heat Wave Blasts New York To D.C., Sign Of More Extreme Weather To Come

Ava Owens gets a cool shower from her mom Laura Owens at a pool in Hasting-on-Hudson, N.Y., Wednesday, July 29, 2015. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SETH WENIG
Ava Owens gets a cool shower from her mom Laura Owens at a pool in Hasting-on-Hudson, N.Y., Wednesday, July 29, 2015. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SETH WENIG

If you’re reading this anywhere from Hartford to Richmond, you are undoubtedly reading it inside.

The National Weather Service has issued an “excessive heat warning” in the Mid-Atlantic. A heat index of up to 110ºF “will increase the risk for heat-related health issues, especially for the elderly, those with chronic health problems such as lung and heart disease, those working outdoors, and other sensitive groups of people,” the National Weather Service advised.

The New York Office of Emergency Management directed people not to exercise outdoors over the weekend. According to the city’s health department, more people across the country die in heat-related deaths than in any other type of weather event. Buildings without air-conditioning see temperatures rise even beyond the 105º-110ºF experienced outside.

The department notes that “a heat index above 95°F is especially dangerous for older adults and other vulnerable individuals.” It will be 10 to 15 degrees hotter than that this weekend.

Heat waves are a growing trend across the globe. This summer, the Middle East has experienced record temperatures. July saw the heat index in Iran and the U.A.E. hit an almost unimaginable 140ºF. Actual temperature in the region hit hemispheric records of 129ºF.

According to Live Science, most people will experience hyperthermia after 10 minutes in 140ºF. While we are not seeing temperatures go quite that high — yet — it is the unrelenting heat that kills. High temperatures combined with high humidity mean no relief. Even at night, temperatures do not fall sufficiently for the human body to adequately cool itself.

In 2010, 55,000 people in Russia died in a heat wave. In 2003, 70,000 people across Europe were killed by heat.

For decades, scientists have been warning that climate change — the cumulative outcome of over a century of burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon molecules that trap heat in the atmosphere — will create longer, more intense heat waves.

A statistical analysis of the 2010 Russian heat wave found that there was an 80 percent likelihood that it would not have occurred without climate change.

In 2013, Columbia University scientists warned that by 2020, New York City could see a 20 percent rise in heat-related deaths. By 2050, it could see a 90 percent rise.

There is a flood watch (green) in affect from Texas to Maine, and a heat warning across the Mid-Atlantic this weekend. CREDIT: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
There is a flood watch (green) in affect from Texas to Maine, and a heat warning across the Mid-Atlantic this weekend. CREDIT: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

Of course, heat waves are not the only dangerous outcome of climate change. In addition to the Mid-Atlantic excessive heat warning, the National Weather Service announced there is “significant flash flood potential” in the Gulf Coast, along with flooding potential “from Texas to Maine.”

Increased precipitation in the strongest storms — in other words, more intense storms — has been linked to climate change.

“Flash floods, which pose the most immediate risks for people, bridges and roads, and buildings on floodplains, result in part from this shift toward more extreme precipitation in a warming world,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

On Friday, President Obama devoted his weekly address to the issue of climate change.

“One of the most urgent challenges of our time is climate change,” he said. “We know that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year on record — and 2016 is on pace to be even hotter.”

Obama has made addressing climate change a key part of his administration, pressing for international agreements with China, India, Canada, and others, as well as signing on to the Paris Agreement late last year. He has also directed the EPA to issue a host of carbon rules, including the Clean Power Plan, which would limit emissions from the electricity sector.

This month, the administration is expected to finalize yet another rule, this one addressing emissions from heavy-duty trucks. Transportation recently surpassed the electricity sector as the largest contributor of emissions in the United States.