Extreme heat expected this summer
By Chris Jennings
July 5, 2023
The official start of summer is June 21 this year. However, many across the U.S. began experiencing summer-like temps earlier than normal. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a risk of hazardous temperature statement from June 20-22. The report said near record-breaking temperatures and high heat index values could be possible over eastern Texas and Louisiana.
According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). From January to May, temperatures were above average across much of the eastern U.S. and parts of the Northwest.
Florida ranked warmest on record, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland each recorded their second warmest January through May. Another 22 states had a top-10 warmest year-to-date period.
Hot summers are nothing new if you live in Oklahoma or the surrounding areas. This summer, NOAA and citizen scientists will map the hottest parts of Oklahoma City and 17 other communities in 14 states nationwide as part of the NOAA Urban Heat Island (UHI) mapping campaign.
In a press release about the UHI campaign, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said, “Gathering this type of environmental intelligence helps communities measure their hottest places to develop strategies to reduce the dangerous effects of heat. Community by community, we’re working to create a Climate-Ready Nation that is resilient in a changing world.”
The UHI mapping campaign addresses extreme heat, the number one weather-related cause of death in the U.S. for the last three decades. Urban heat islands, areas with few trees and more pavement that absorbs heat, can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby neighborhoods with more trees, grass and less black asphalt.
While the Choctaw Nation reservation is predominantly rural, many of its tribal members live in the metropolitan areas where these heat islands exist.
The difference in temperature in these areas can lead to inequities. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some communities in the United States, particularly those that are low-income and with higher populations of people of color, have neighborhoods with higher temperatures when compared to nearby neighborhoods in the same city.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 700 people die from extreme heat yearly in the United States. These deaths occur in both urban and rural areas like the Choctaw Nation.
Anyone can be at risk from the health effects of heat, but some are more vulnerable, including pregnant women, people with heart or lung conditions, young children, elders, athletes, and people who frequently work outdoors.
People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are also more susceptible to extreme heat. Damage to blood vessels and nerves often accompanying diabetes can affect your sweat glands, so your body can’t cool as effectively.
A diabetic elder with high blood pressure is at an even higher risk. Common high blood pressure medicines, like diuretics, can also cause dehydration.
The CDC offers the following tips to stay safe during periods of high heat.
Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
If your doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much you should drink during hot weather.
Don’t use the stove or oven to cook — it will make you and your house hotter.
Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
If you frequently work outdoors or are an athlete getting your workout in after work or school, there are some things to watch for to help identify heat-related illnesses (HRI). The three main types of HRI are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. They can occur when individuals are exposed to extreme heat.
The CDC says signs of overexposure to excessive heat conditions can begin with heat cramps. If you experience heavy sweating with muscle cramps during intense exercise, you should stop and move to a cool place, drink water or a sports drink and wait for the cramps to go away.
Signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, cold, pale, clammy skin, fast, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache and fainting. If you or someone around you are experiencing these symptoms, you should move to a cool place, loosen your clothes and put a cool, wet cloth on the body.
Signs of heat stroke are a body temperature that’s 103°F or higher, hot, red, dry, or damp skin, fast, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and losing consciousness or passing out. If you see someone with these symptoms, call 911 immediately, as heat stroke is a medical emergency. After that, move the person to a cooler place and help lower their temperature with a cool cloth.
The average temperature across the U.S. for July 2022 was 2.8 degrees higher than normal, making it the third hottest July in 128 years.
Temperatures for July aren’t known yet, but knowing more about heat safety can help keep you and your family safe during extreme heat events.