Dangerous Heat Wave to Grip the U.S.: 10 Ways to Survive Extreme Heat
By Brenda Ekwurzel
The U.S. National Weather Service heat index forecast for June 18 looks scary. It indicates a dangerous situation that everyone who lives in the red areas in the map below should take steps to prepare for. I am not kidding. Extreme heat can be life threatening if not taken seriously.
I used to not pay as much attention to extreme heat until one dangerous day in July. A medical practitioner was collecting a small blood sample for a portable testing device and asked me: do you have ringing in your ears? With sweat pouring into my eyes—and a pounding headache slowing my thinking—I wearily answered yes.
The results of the tests were sobering. I drank too much water without consuming enough potassium and other electrolytes. I was water-logged, my potassium levels were too low, my core temperature was raised to unhealthy levels and we were told to recover by sitting in a cool pool of water siphoned off a tributary to the Colorado River.
The medical practitioner had asked a group of us who had hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in July to participate in a survey about heat and health risk. The study was a follow-on to a similar study of marathon runners. At the time, the medical researcher reported finding that female marathon runners lost their potassium during exercise at far higher rates than men. She said women were not being adequately supplied because most common drinks with electrolytes don't have enough potassium for woman athletes.
The advice given was to eat bananas and raisins to make up for this deficit. Since then I have learned even more about extreme heat while working on projects with Jalonne White-Newsome and other scientists who research the public health implications of extreme heat in a warming world.
Here is my top 10 list for ways to protect yourself, family, pets and neighbors from extreme heat:
1. Heat can kill. Heat stroke can lead to life-threatening signs including cardiac arrhythmias, hepatic failure, hyperventilation, coma, confusion, irritability, seizures, pulmonary edema, renal failure and shock.
2. “You can't drink yourself out of heat stroke"—If you see someone is confused or other warning signs of dangerously elevated core temperature, call 911 and take immediate steps. Ice water baths are the preferred option for rapid cooling a person suffering exertional heat stroke during outdoor athletic activities. If this is not available, apply ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck or armpits. The elderly can develop heatstroke over several days, presenting symptoms including delirium, convulsions and coma. Check in with a doctor or urgent care, as heat stroke can kill.
3. Drink before you feel thirsty. Drink fluids (more water and less of the caffeinated beverages) to beat heat stress. Be sure to add electrolytes to your drink and eat a banana or raisins to replace those electrolytes lost through sweating.
4. Knock on doors, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly or young children and encourage going to cooling centers if necessary. Those who work or exercise outdoors have to take special precautions and know the warning signs.
5. Do not leave a child, a pet or grandparent or any living creature to stay in a car during the daytime in a heat wave. Every minute counts as the inside car temperature rises very rapidly when the outside ambient temperature is hot and the sun is up.
6. Don't worry about the cost or carbon footprint of extra cooling during a heat wave. Without relief from the heat at night, a multi-day heat wave can become most dangerous during the latter days of a sustained heatwave. Do not try to save money if you have fans or air conditioning; ask for assistance to pay for higher bills during heat wave season. If necessary, call for transportation to get to the nearest cooling center or contact local health department who may have other protocols to assist with staying healthy during a heat wave.
7. Pay attention to the “feels like" temperature reported from local weather sources. Heat index combines temperature and humidity to give a more accurate risk to human health.
8. Wind is your friend—Air flow helps the body evaporate sweat and cool down. If you are in a stagnant indoor air situation, move outside to a shaded area where a decent wind is blowing or use air conditioning or a fan to create air flow over exposed skin. While away from home grab any object that can be used for a fan in a pinch to create temporary air flow.
9. Expect travel delays. Trains have to slow down when train tracks get too hot. In extreme cases, rail-track deformities can occur above 110 F. Extra weight may have to be taken off an airplane if the runway is too short or a longer queue may form on the longest runways at an airport. Hotter air is less dense, reducing the lift and thrust of the plane during take off. Asphalt can get gooey and disrupt travel.
10. Design matters for public spaces and buildings in heat waves. For example, a study found “unshaded playgrounds can reach temperatures that could burn children" especially in the south and southwest U.S. Another study in Michigan found that warmer indoor residences with “highest effect estimates to dew-point temperature were asphalt, non-high rise locations, homes built between 1940 and 1970 and those with prevailing urban surroundings and those with no central air conditioning."
I have a souvenir from that day in July—a photograph we took near the place where we gave samples to participate in that heat stress study at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It is of a large outdoor thermometer (not shaded) that was pegged at the maximum level (140 degrees Fahrenheit).
We decided to hike out of the Canyon starting at night. That was another step in changing my behavior to better adapt to the extreme heat that day and the many hot days since. The moonlit trail was beautiful during that night hike, helping keep my mind distracted from aching calf muscles.
Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist and assistant director of climate research and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
A tornado tore through a city north of Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night, killing one person and injuring at least 30.
- Tornadoes and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say ... ›
- Tornadoes Hit Unusually Wide Swaths of U.S., Alarming Climate ... ›
- 23 Dead as Tornado Pummels Lee County, AL in Further Sign ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Konisky
On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."
Michael S. Regan, President Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, grew up near a coal-burning power plant in North Carolina and has pledged to "enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities." NCDEQ
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ›
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- Biden Faces Pressure to Tackle 'Unfunded' Toxic Waste Sites ... ›
By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.