This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
As brutal, extended heat waves bring record temperatures across the United States and put millions of residents at risk of heat stroke and death, the government has launched a website aiming to support heat resilience amid a climate crisis.
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Temperatures reached record highs in multiple states this week, and heat alerts were issued last Thursday for more than 100 million people in the continental U.S. Some areas experienced heat as high as 46°C, with the most affected areas—with highs over 37.7°C—mostly located in California and the southern and southwestern regions. Texas and Oklahoma were expected to maintain high temperatures for the foreseeable future, the Washington Post reports.
Multiple cities in the northeast registered temperatures above 32°C and several soared higher still, an occurrence that experts consider very rare for the region. And now temperatures in the northwest are spiking, recalling last summer’s heat dome, the Guardian says. Officials are concerned about residents who are less likely to have air conditioning units, and for residents who are older, live alone, have disabilities, are unhoused, and have low income, all factors that put them at the greatest risk, writes the Toronto Star.
“Unfortunately there’s this intersection of our climate crisis and our housing emergency,” said Jonna Papaefthimiou, chief resilience officer for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, adding that unhoused people “face the greatest risk from all kinds of severe weather.”
The heat is also affecting critical infrastructure. Roads and airport runways are buckling, train tracks are warping, and bridges swelling, writes the Post, as they were built with materials intended to accommodate a lower range of temperatures. Engineers and researchers are calling for broad changes in infrastructure design and a more long-term, holistic approach to adapt to a climate that will only get hotter.
Food systems are also at risk. The heat is compounding factors like drought, fires, and inflation in western states, causing farmers to sell off livestock at the highest rates in more than a decade. In Kansas, at least 2,000 cattle died from the high temperatures and were dumped in a landfill after the facilities that would normally process them into animal food or fertilizer were overwhelmed.
The U.S.’s brutal weather and the scorching heat that has killed thousands in Europe are linked, caused by the same jet stream perturbations that are creating simultaneous heat waves across the northern hemisphere. With a root cause that not only leads to high heat, but also causes high heat in multiple locations at the same time, “the risk of concurrent breadbasket failures is increasing,” said Kai Kornhuber, a researcher at Columbia University.
With the mounting risk of increasingly frequent, intense, and sustained heat waves, the U.S. has launched its HEAT.gov web portal, with maps, data, and other information to help the public and local officials prepare, reports NBC News.
According to White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy, the portal will be a resource for people across the country, including all levels of government, to “take actions that can reduce the deadly health impacts of extreme heat.”
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