Record Heat Waves Hit the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Europe
By Bob Henson
During the first three days of August, some locations in the Pacific Northwest have approached their hottest temperatures ever recorded—and parts of southeast Europe have seen all-time highs. More brutally hot days lie ahead, as residents endure a multi-day heat wave that ranks among the worst on record for both regions (even as the central and eastern U.S. enjoys an unusually mild first week of August).
Western Oregon has been the epicenter of this week's exceptional Northwest heat. On Thursday, Portland, soared to 105°F. Only five days in Portland's history have been hotter, most recently 106°F on July 28 and 29, 2009. Medford hit 112°F on Wednesday, a temperature last seen in August 1981 and not far from Medford's all-time high of 115°F. "Last time we saw heat like this, postage stamps were 20 cents," noted the NWS office in Medford. The state capitol of Salem came just a degree short of its all-time high on Wednesday, hitting 107°F.
Plenty of daily record highs also fell by the wayside from central California to western Washington, though the heat wasn't quite so impressive on either side of Oregon. Seattle hit 94°F on Thursday, breaking the daily record of 91°F set in 1939. The pace of record-setting will gradually lessen over the next several days, as low-level flow near the Pacific Coast takes on more of an onshore component. On the down side, mid-level moisture will increase, which sets the stage for an increase in "dry" thunderstorms that could trigger wildfires. The fire weather outlook issued Thursday afternoon by the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center highlights a dry-thunderstorm risk across most of the Pacific Northwest from Saturday through Wednesday.
MODIS image of smoke over the Northwest U.S. and British Columbia on Wednesday morning, August 2.NASA
Where There's Smoke, There's Not Quite As Much Heat
Temperatures might have been even more torrid this week over the Pacific Northwest had it not been for thick smoke pouring across the region from wildfires, especially those in southern British Columbia. Visibility plummeted to as low as 3 miles on Wednesday afternoon in Seattle and Thursday morning in Portland. In a blog post titled SMOKEZILLA Versus the Heat Wave, Cliff Mass (University of Washington) noted that the dense smoke cut back solar radiation in the Seattle area by 11 percent to 14 percent on Wednesday. Highs on Wednesday came in 3°F to 5°F cooler than predicted in both Seattle and Portland, noted Mass. "SMOKEZILLA clearly took the edge off the heat-wave monster," he concluded.
The Air Quality Index, accounting for both ozone and particulate pollution, as of 6:00 pm PDT August 3. The index was in the "unhealthy" range across most of the highly populated areas in western Oregon and Washington, and in the "very unhealthy" range just east of Seattle. AirNow
Residents in western Oregon and Washington paid for their slightly-less-hot weather in the form of unhealthy air quality (see Figure 2). The embedded tweet below shows a NASA model's depiction of carbon monoxide (CO) from biomass burning over the next few days. CO serves as a useful tracer of the extent of smoke being pumped into the atmosphere by wildfires. Of course, this model can't anticipate where any new fires will develop, but those would only exacerbate the situation.
🔥Wildfire smoke is expected to continue into the foreseeable future across the Pacific NW & British Columbia. Credi… https://t.co/ZEfkQOynSJ— NWS Boise (@NWS Boise)1501772409.0
All-Time Record Heat Envelops Southeast Europe
An already-hot summer has kicked into overdrive over a large swath of southeast Europe, where one of the worst droughts in decades has taken hold this summer. Temperatures again soared above 100°F on Thursday across large sections of drought-ravaged Italy. On Tuesday, the iconic city of Florence set an all-time high of 41.3°C (106.3°F), topping its record of 41.1°C (106.0°F) from 2003, according to Italy's Servizio Meteorologico. All-time records were also set on Tuesday in Perugia, L'Aquila, and Potenza, and on Wednesday in Campobasso.
Croatia's second-largest city, Split, had the hottest day in its weather history on Wednesday. Split's high of 42.3°C (108.1°F) handily broke the previous all-time high of 40.0°C (104°F) set on July 18, 2015. Croatia's meteorological service, Crometeo, reported 10 other all-time highs set across the nation on Wednesday.
The heat wave may continue full blast across southeast Europe into the weekend, before ramping down only gradually next week.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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