The heat wave that has baked more than half the country over much of this week hits its peak in many areas this weekend with blazing heat, stifling humidity, and a combined heat index that’s not just a recipe for misery, but a serious health threat. Though only a handful of locations are expected to break their all time temperature records, the extent of this heatwave could still make for the hottest weekend ever recorded.
Heat emergencies have been declared in over a dozen cities and scheduled events in many areas, including the New York Triathlon, have been cancelled because of the heat this weekend. However, many Americans are still working in positions that require them to be out in the sun. That includes utility workers trying to deal with an electrical grid straining under near record demand. If you have to be in the heat this weekend, watch yourself — and others around you — for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The National Weather Service has noted that this heat wave has been particularly prolonged and is especially dangerous because temperatures have also been well above normal overnight. High nighttime temperatures are regarded as a indicator of high risk to public health. So … watch it.
Warmer nighttime temperatures are one of the features predicted by many climate change models, and as the climate crisis becomes evermore present day to day, those predictions are proving themselves correct. Hot temperatures overnight this week are greatly increasing both electrical use and the health threat. Some areas can expect relief from the heat as soon as Sunday evening. For others, the heat will continue into next week with a break in the heat wave not expected before Tuesday or Wednesday.
This shot of heat across the United States follows just a month after Europe reached all-time-record heat. Earlier this year, Australia was blasted by a heat wave that saw all time records fall, along with temperatures so great that wildlife died in huge numbers.
And remember … two-thirds of summer is still ahead.
The Heat Index might not be the “real temperature,” but it’s a better measure of how the body responds to the overall heat and humidity. That difference can genuinely be life and death, so pay attention to the Heat Index when planning activity.