Global Warming Bringing More Extreme Heat Waves

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As the Eastern U.S. Scorches More Extremely Hot Days on the Horizon

2010 is a sample of what's to come. Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves, which will seriously impact vulnerable populations

Temperatures are breaking records along eastern and southern portions of the United States during summer 2010. Future summers will bring even more extremely hot summer days for every part of the country if global warming continues unabated, says National Wildlife Federation, which just issued an update to its 2009 heat waves report. The analysis comes days after the U.S. Senate shelved action on comprehensive climate and energy legislation this summer.

In 2010, New Jersey, Delaware, and North Carolina all experienced the hottest June on record, while Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana had their second hottest June. Eight other states had Junes that ranked in the top-five hottest.

The hot conditions continued with July 2010 being among the top five hottest on record for ten states. As a result, more than 70 million Americans experienced extreme heat during these two months. Hundreds of daily temperature records were broken across the country.

“2010 is a sample of what’s to come. Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves, which will seriously impact vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist, National Wildlife Federation.

That means air pollution in urban areas could get worse, bringing increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. Children, the elderly, poor, and people of color are especially vulnerable to these effects. Public health experts are especially alarmed.

“Global warming is one of the most massive health emergencies facing humanity. Its effects are already life-threatening for people with asthma and allergies and it’s only going to get worse if we do nothing,” said Mike Tringale, vice president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Top U.S. government experts have confirmed that the earth is warming. NASA scientists recently stated that the average global temperature was higher over the past 12 months than during any other 12-month period in history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released data showing that March to June of this year have each individually been the hottest on record as well.

To explain the bigger picture and provide recommendations for how to cope with projected changes and how to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, NWF’s 2009 report More Extreme Heat Waves: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call details how:

  •     Global warming will bring more extreme heat waves
  •     Urban air pollution could be exacerbated by more extreme heat
  •     Heat waves disproportionately impact people who are poor, elderly, children, or have asthma or heart disease, or live in big cities
  •     Natural habitats and agriculture are also vulnerable to heat waves
  •     We can reduce the severity of heat waves and their impacts on vulnerable people

From New York to Los Angeles, the report details 30 large U.S. cities where major risk factors associated with heat-related mortality make residents especially vulnerable to heat waves.

“We need to take these trends toward more extreme heat waves into account when designing urban areas and public health programs,” said Dr. Staudt. “We can no longer plan based on the climate we used to have.”

Important steps to reduce the risks include curbing global warming pollution to minimize future extreme heat waves, making cities cooler and greener, implementing public health measures that reduce the impact of extreme heat waves, and safeguarding wildlife, fish and habitats from extreme heat.

National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

Immediate Release: August 11, 2010
Tony Iallonardo, senior communications manager, 202-797-6612, iallonardot(at)nwf(dot)org


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