Memorial Day weekend signifies the unofficial start of summer, and in many parts of the country, the arrival of hot weather. According to National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. And, the number of heat waves has been on the rise in recent years – the recently released National Climate Assessment found that the number of intense heat waves in 2011 and 2012 were almost triple the long-term average. Heat waves can be particularly brutal in cities, where the surface temperatures of roofs and pavement can be from 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the air temperature on hot sunny days. These hot surfaces contribute to urban heat islands where temperatures in cities are hotter than surrounding, less developed areas. Hot weather and heat waves have a number of impacts, including increased energy use for air conditioning, increased emissions of air pollutants and impacts on human health.
Viewer Tip: May 23 is Heat Awareness Day. This is the perfect time of year to brush up on tips to keep yourself, family members and friends healthy during hot weather. Remember that infants and young children, people 65 years and older, people who are overweight, and people who are sick or use certain medications are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
- Seek out A/C: A few hours per day in an air-conditioned building can reduce risk of illness. If your home does not have A/C, visit a senior center, movie theater, library, mall or designated community cooling center. A fan may provide some relief, but when temperatures reach the high 90′s, electric fans do not prevent heat-related illness.
- Dress the Part: Wear light-weight, loose clothing that is light in color. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or lots of sugar, which can cause dehydration.
- Check Up: If you have a family member, friend or neighbor who is at risk, visit them regularly. If you see signs of heat-related illness – confusion, hot and dry skin, hallucinations, or aggression – seek help immediately.
National Weather Service issues Excessive Heat Outlooks, Excessive Heat Watches and Excessive Heat Warnings/Advisories to help you stay informed. Learn about these alerts and get more information about heat-related illness and preparedness.
Learn more about extreme heat in this infographic from the Centers for Disease Control.
(Sources: National Weather Service. “Heat: A Major Killer.” ; Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.U.S; Environmental Protection Agency. “Heat Island Impacts.” ; “It’s Too Darn Hot – Planning for Excessive Heat Events.” Publication number: EPA 100-F-07-025, www.epa.gov/aging; Centers for Disease Control, “Extreme Heat”