Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Heat: Where Is It And How To Stay Safe?

Heat related illness is a deadly consequence that strikes every summer. In fact, the amount of deaths (~400 per year) that are attributed to heat are considered the greatest weather related killer nationwide.  

This poses a great danger to the young and elderly.  Specifically, a child's body can heat up three to five times faster than an adults body.  Elderly may have respiratory issued and a lack of means of remaining cool during an extended heat wave.  Athletes that expose them to possible heat exhaustion or heat stroke if precautions are not taken.  Heat stroke is very serious and potentially deadly with the internal temperature of the body rises above 105°. 

Other symptoms may include:
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.
While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment -- or at least a cool, shady area -- and remove any unnecessary clothing.
You may also try these cooling strategies:
  • Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
  • Apply ice packs to the patent's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
  • Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.
If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

May have commented that our summers are growing hotter and more extreme in a changing climate?  

Well, the actual scientific answer is complex and still remains a heated debate.  First, it is fact that climate is supposed to change!  It is simply the average weather for a location over a determined time.  I did look at some facts.  I analyzed the average number of 90 degree days or warmer each decade since the 1920s. Take a look at what I found for Toledo:

This chart shows that during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Toledo averaged nearly 20 days at 90 degrees or warmer a year.  This is LESS than the current 15 days per year the Toledo currently averages at 90 degrees or warmer.  This does show that this 30 year period during the 30s, 40s and 50s was in fact more extreme with the number of 90 degree days experienced each year.  Our summers are and always have been hot in a climate that is by nature always changing. 

This summer is a perfect example of how cool summers can be.  The current July temperature is nearly 4.0° below average for the entire month.  This year has only had 3 days at 90 degrees or warmer with essentially no chance of even coming close to 90 degrees the rest of the month!  Here is why.  There is strong agreement in the long range models of a highly amplified upper air pattern with a persistent North Atlantic blocking high pressure ridge and an Eastern United States trough all of next week and into early August. 

This pattern is essentially a lock to bring temperatures well below average over the next 6 to 10 days.  However, when the heat does come back, remember that heat related illness could become more of a danger due to the fact that we have not been acclimated to the extreme heat that would be more common for a typical summer.