Dangerous Heat Wave in U.S. and Mexico Made Hotter and More Likely by Climate Change
An oppressive heat wave that has been baking Texas in record temperatures is predicted to move north and east this weekend, bringing stifling heat and humidity to states from Missouri to Florida. The desert Southwest and central California are also expected to see dangerously high temperatures.
As of Thursday, at least 15 people in the U.S. had died from heat-related illnesses, reported The New York Times.
Temperatures are expected to rise to as high as 20 degrees hotter than the normal average in the South, at least through the weekend, with the heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity — climbing even higher.
When high humidity combines with oppressive heat, it becomes more dangerous. The body can’t cool itself off as well by sweating, which is when heat exhaustion, cramps and heat stroke become a concern, especially for vulnerable people like young children, the elderly, individuals with some medical conditions and those who are pregnant. This is especially true when the heat index is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
In most of the U.S., there are no protections for workers toiling in the heat either outdoors or in buildings with no air conditioning, and during the latest heat wave in Texas, some decided to walk off the job.
“When I came in, it really was so hot. I decided I need to go on strike. I told my co-workers because it is way too hot here and I knew they were all extremely hot as well,” said Gloria Machuca, a former McDonald’s employee in Houston, as a heat dome sat over Texas last week, as The Guardian reported. “If we don’t work, they don’t make money. They’re making money off our sweat and it’s not fair. It’s time they truly value us.”
The recent heat wave over the U.S. South and northern Mexico was made about five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would have been normally due to climate change, said Michael Wehner, a mathematics and computational research senior scientist at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reported The New York Times.
“It didn’t cause the event, but it changed the magnitude of the event,” Wehner said.
In the past two weeks, the extreme heat has claimed the lives of at least 100 people in Mexico, as temperatures rose to above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, Reuters reported.
Almost all the fatalities were due to heat stroke, with most of them in Nuevo Leon, on the Texas border. Temperatures have begun to normalize in parts of Mexico, as rain has moved into some areas.
The kind of extreme temperatures that have been plaguing the South this week take the lives of more people in the U.S. than any other weather-related event, reported The Washington Post.
Beginning today and into this weekend, the desert Southwest and central California are predicted to experience dangerous temperatures, with the National Weather Service issuing excessive heat warnings for San Diego and Los Angeles, Axios reported.
New research from Climate Central has shown that the unusually high temperatures in the West have been made at least five times more likely due to human-induced climate change.
“Daytime temperatures are forecast to approach 110°F in several cities in California and are expected to exceed these levels in parts of Nevada and Arizona,” the Climate Central website said. “These temperatures could present heat safety risks, particularly given the rapid increase in temperatures following a cooler-than-average start to the summer. Humans, wildlife, and plants including valuable agricultural crops have not had a chance to acclimate to warmer temperatures and may experience extra stress due to the rapid onset of the event.”