(NEW YORK) — The heat is here this summer, and it’s expected to stay that way.
Millions of Americans had already tasted the sweltering temperatures by the time the summer solstice – the longest day of the year and the official start of the summer season – arrived last week.
A respite from the heat is unlikely to come, according to forecasts for the coming months.
Following back-to-back dangerous heat waves that have affected much of the country over the past two weeks, much of the country will brace for more bouts of intense heat as the summer continues.
The last days of June and the first days of July will likely bring above average temperatures along the Gulf Coast, with increasing heat in the west. According to long-term weather forecast models monitored by meteorologists, intense summer heat waves and longer heat waves will be likely over the next two weeks and through July.
The odds are in favor of above-average temperatures across much of the south and along the east coast, according to the latest July outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. Although there will be breaks in the heat from time to time, more prolonged and dangerous heat waves will be more likely in these regions – which have already experienced triple-digit temperatures – before midsummer.
The Midwest, which has seen some of the highest temperatures in recent heat waves, will be one of the few areas to experience heat relief in the coming days.
Heat is the #1 weather-related killer. On average, more people in the United States die from extreme heat than from any other severe weather event, including tornadoes, hurricanes and floods combined, according to the National Weather Service.
Vulnerable populations, including poor and marginalized communities and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and heart disease, are most at risk when temperatures start to soar, Ladd Keith, assistant professor at the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Arizona, ABC News told ABC News.
“With climate change, we have already seen the number of heat waves increase,” he said. “In the 1960s, they were happening twice a year. And we’ve already seen that increase to six times a decade over the last decade.”
As the heat index rose, cities across the country began offering heat management strategies such as cooling and hydration centers. In Tennessee, utility company Middle Tennessee Electric has even suspended disconnections for nonpayment until at least July 6 amid forecasts of scorching temperatures.
Cities tend to be warmer than their natural surroundings due to the heat island effect caused by buildings, roads and other infrastructure, which absorb and re-radiate heat from the sun more than a natural landscape, a Keith said. That’s why it’s important for cities to also implement heat mitigation strategies, such as planting trees, increasing vegetation, and using cool sidewalks and roofs during new weather. buildings, he said.
“Only the average temperatures that are rising due to climate change – and the way we have built our cities – can expose people to dangerous temperatures throughout the summer season, especially for historically warmer states,” said Keith said. “And so that’s a concern, because it could definitely lead to things like dehydration, heat, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.”
Heat severity in urban areas is “drastic and inequitably distributed,” Keith said. Lower-income marginalized minority neighborhoods are physically warmer because they have less vegetation and have less public investment historically tied to those locations, he added.
Additionally, many critical urban infrastructure and systems, such as industry, airports and transportation hubs, are typically located “intentionally” in low-income areas, Keith said.
“So it physically makes those places hotter, so they’re exposed to more heat right where they live,” he said.
Combine that with the inability to access health care or pay for basic utilities such as air conditioning, and people’s health can succumb to the heat, Keith said.
Heat and mega-drought are becoming such a concern in the West that the city of Los Angeles named its first-ever heat manager earlier this month, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency identified the county of Los Angeles as the nation’s most vulnerable county to heat waves. .
Although cities are warmer, there are actually more heat-related hospitalizations in rural areas, likely due to the types of occupations those residents have and their commuting habits, Keith said.
The next heat wave is also expected to affect the Pacific Northwest, a region that has seen triple-digit temperatures twice in 2021, something that would have been unheard of two decades ago.
It is estimated that approximately 1,400 people in the United States and Canada died as a result of this heat wave.
“There’s just a less visible risk, and that kind of hides some of these deaths, unfortunately,” Keith said.
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