Throughout the majority of this summer, the northeast corridor of the United States has been experiencing a warming trend, or in other words, a “heat wave”. Many places have been experiencing above average temperatures of over 20° F (-6.6° C), which when combined with high humidity has led to heat indices of 100° F (37.7° C). This means that the air temperatures feel much hotter and thicker than it actually is.
A heat wave occurs when a system of high atmospheric pressure moves into an area. In such a high-pressure system, air from upper levels of our atmosphere is pulled toward the ground, where it becomes compressed and increases in temperature. This high pressure makes it difficult for other weather systems to move into the area, which is why a heat wave can last for days or weeks. The longer the system stays in an area, the hotter the area becomes. Because the high-pressure system also prevents clouds from entering the region, sunlight can become punishing, heating up the system even more. The combination of all of these factors come together to create the exceptionally hot temperatures we call a heat wave.
As for the northeast, in areas such as Massachusetts - these areas are projected to experience more hot weather for the first week of September. This is unusual for the area, as the average high temperature for the city of Boston in September is the lower to middle 70’s. Meteorologists from the area, such as Danielle Niles of WBZ-TV are considering the month of August as the warmest ever on record, with an average high temperature of 76.9° F (24.9° C). As school has started in many areas in the state, there have been numerous school closings due to the stifling heat.
Heat is often considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in the United States, killing more people on average compared to other natural disasters such as lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes hurricanes and floods combined. High humidity and elevated nighttime temperatures are the key ingredients in causing heat-related illness. Heat stress occurs in humans when the body is unable to cool itself effectively. Normally, the body can cool itself through sweating but when humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, potentially leading to heat stroke.
Heat waves should always be taken seriously no matter where you are located in the world. It’s important to remember that you should always stay hydrated, limit outdoor activities and potentially limit them to the early morning or evening when temperatures aren’t nearly as high, always check up your neighbors and the elderly and try to find activities that are indoors such as going to a shopping mall. It’s important to keep all of this in mind to prevent heat stroke from occurring. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency. Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes. This occurs from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, usually in combination with dehydration which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. Some of the symptoms 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, seizures and unconsciousness.
While the nature of a heat wave is frightening at first, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated, limit outdoor activities, stay inside with air conditioning if you can, checking up on others, as well as learn the signs of heat stroke and heat related illnesses. Heat waves will always be occurring throughout the summer months in many areas, and it’s something to stay diligent about and be educated on the matter.
© 2018 Weather Forecaster Michael Ames