There seems to be a lot of controversy around the possibility of global warming. Some say it is real, while others dispute its validity. Either way, extreme heat waves in many cities has been an undisputed issue. These heat waves often last several days, and even claim lives, as they pass through. Cities with little green space are usually hit worse than rural areas. Man-made environments are not as resilient to big weather changes. Heat and floods affect cites immensely, as there is no natural ground to absorb water, and asphalt roads and concrete tend to take on more heat. Recent heat waves are only the beginning.
In July of 2006 a hot air mass stayed steady over Californian causing the death of hundreds of residents. This issue has been going on much earlier than this, however. In July of 1995, extreme heat spanned over a few days. Almost 700 people lost their lives in this heat wave. The most vulnerable residents were the elderly, people of color, and those who had no access to air conditioning. The number of deaths just keeps rising. Over 70,000 individuals lost their lives in a heat wave that hit Europe in 2003. About 20,000 of these individuals resided in France. This incident happened in August while many young people took their vacations.
Many of the victims were those that resided in the upper levels of apartment buildings. A large portion of these were elderly people. The vacationing younger generation may have been more attentive to their elderly neighbors, had they not been away at the time. People in the upper apartments literally baked to death. Russia reported about 10,000 deaths. This is an interesting phenomenon, because these areas are not known for their hot weather. The death toll during a 2015 heat incident in India reached a much lesser number of and estimated 2,500 people. India is well-known for its hot and humid weather. Perhaps they are better prepared for this type of weather.
Proper recording of these massive heat waves did not begin until 1986. The National Weather Service then decided that tracking these oddities may help to better understand the patterns. Deaths from heat, in the United States, outnumber lives lost from any other weather pattern. Heat has claimed a total of 3,979 lives according to the data. Deaths from floods total 2,599, while fatalities from tornadoes rest at 2,116. Hurricanes claimed the lowest number of lives. The total for these major storms is 1,391.
Heat related deaths are difficult to ascertain, therefore, the numbers may not be accurate. A body must be found with a high body temperature in a hot room, to be considered a heat death. Many death certificates do not show the cause of death as heat because of this restriction. Environmental evidence may point to a heat death, however, the medical evidence must be available to claim this mode of death.
The main cause of this enhanced heat is the trapping of greenhouse gases. These gases reach unsafe amounts in our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, and other varies gases also continue to add warmth to the planet. These gases come from landfills, cars, and some natural sources. Excessive methane is a byproduct of an increase in cattle ownership. This increase is in response to demand for beef and dairy products from an expanding population. A heat wave is considered as a surge of heat that lasts two days or more.
Extreme heat has more consequences on the human body than just death. Many people find it difficult to function when temperatures soar. During heat waves there are more reports of insomnia, and intelligence seems to take a nose dive. Those having babies during one of these heat waves stand the chance having an unhealthy birth. The issue is not taken seriously, yet, by many people. Death from heat is not the norm in many areas of the world. Until this phenomenon becomes more severe and prevalent, it may not be taken seriously.
Heat waves are expected to continue and only become worse in the following years. Researchers expect to see an increase in days that exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The summer heat averages are expected to continue their upward path. Many people already have to be careful by staying inside with air conditioning during the summer months. The cooling of homes needs to become a priority to avoid deaths. Elderly are more susceptible to the heat, and must exercise extreme caution. As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate, rises in temperature may be even more drastic.
Projected weather patterns show that increased temperatures are a major part of our future.