Monday, July 25, 2011

Oppressive heat this week will be the summer norm in Rochester, NY


It’s worth your while to read the recommendations by the New York State Department of Health on measures to take during this heat wave. There are a lot to things to consider on a hot day. Just being able to tough them out while on the job like a bunch of heat heroes (which seems to be the focus of our local media) isn’t one of them. There are heat strokes, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and heat cramps to consider –not to mention searing the inside of you lungs because of ground-level ozone. Athletes have to ask themselves if it’s worth the risk to their lungs if they exercise hard in this kind of weather. This will be a more common alert in the future and probably more strident:

State Health Department, Office of Emergency Management Issue Tips to Weather Heat Wave ALBANY, NY (July 20, 2011) -- With much of the State under an Excessive Heat Watch today as temperatures are forecast to climb into the mid- to upper 90s over the next couple of days, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offered New Yorkers the following advice to get through the expected oppressive heat. "High temperatures are common during the summer in New York, but when temperatures reach extreme levels for extended periods of time, the intense heat can be dangerous to your health," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D. "Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly, infants and young children, people with respiratory ailments or chronic medical conditions, and anyone who works outdoors. We urge all New Yorker to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do if someone has them, and also take steps to keep cool and remain healthy when temperatures are high." (July 20, 2011) New York State Department of Health

Things are getting hot:

Deadly Heat Wave Moves Toward Northeast - A blistering, eastern-moving band of heat hovering over the Plains and southern United States has killed two dozen people this week, and forecasters expect it to scorch the Northeast in the coming days, pushing temperatures toward 100 degrees on Friday. The wave of heat transformed a large swath of the nation’s midsection into a sauna, with at least 17 states reaching the 100-degree mark on Tuesday, and many more experiencing temperatures into the 90’s — a result of high pressures compressing and cooking the air. States from Texas to Montana and the Dakotas had widespread heat warnings or advisories in place by Wednesday evening, affecting over 140 million Americans. And so far, at least 22 deaths across the nation have been attributed to the heat wave, the National Weather Service reported. (July 21, 2011) The New York Times

As a matter of fact, not only won’t you see a link in the local media between this heat wave and Climate Change, the media goes out of their way to suggest that the two aren’t related at all:

“Before you complain about the heat, consider this. This is what the Rochester area looked like in January. The National Weather Service reports this past winter was the coldest and snowiest winter overall across the region in eight years.” (July 21, 2011) Where To Go To Beat the Heat - YNN, Your News Now

This is all very curious because major studies like these below say it’s getting warmer and more days of extreme weather, both hot and cold (but mostly hot), are in our future:

If you don’t ‘get’ Climate Change, you only hear a seemingly confusing conversation about hot weather and snow storms. Global Warming looks crazy to the uninformed on days when the snow is piling up. But it’s not crazy; it’s just not simple—our climate system is very complicated. That is why we need scientific studies—they tease out the reality of Climate Change from your prejudices, pre-conceived notions, and the relatively short and quick view of reality we get from day to day.

From an accelerated Climate Change perspective, based on many studies, here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for our region because we didn’t address Climate Change long ago—even if we stopped anymore greenhouse gases from getting into our atmosphere right now: a migration north for our endemic plants and animals as our climate adopts a Southern visage (though, most ((especially plants)) won’t move quickly enough), droughts in later summer, more weeds (they capitalize on the Carbon Dioxide high better than our crops) more flooding in early spring, more extreme Great-Lake effect storms, lowering of Great Lakes water levels, more coastal flooding, more extreme heat in our cities because of the urban island heat effect, more diseases (like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus) and more potent cases of poison ivy, more air quality loss, more tax money to buttress our water and transportation infrastructures, more agriculture changes, more changes in sport fishing as trout need cold water, more changes in the dairy industry, more changes in the spruce/fir forests of our region, less snowpack in winter recreation (did you know that NYS has more ski areas than any other state in the nation?), and an increase in ozone pollution.

Were you watching the thermometer on Thursday?

“The heat is on... in a big way in much of upstate New York. As of 12:44pm on Thursday, the old record high temperature for Rochester of 97 degrees, set in 1994, was broken with the temperature getting to 98, and likely still climbing. We also hit a record for power usage according to R G and E. Officials tell WHAM News that power usage on Thursday reached at least 1,752 megawatts, beating the old record of 1,744 megawatts set back in 2006.” (July 21, 2011) Temperature Hits A Record | NEWSRADIO 1180 WHAM

Besides the havoc on our bodies and psyches (people get crankier and there are more mental health problems in oppressive heat), the burden on our power systems are tremendous. Everyone running their air conditioners puts a big load on our power system, with threats of outages. ( More than 3,000 in Greece, Rochester without power in today's heat –(July 21, 2011 Webster Post ) And the use of more water to keep ourselves, our plants, and our power stations cool means more water has to be pumped, which uses more power to move—as moving water around is a major contributor of power consumption in our area. More power, more expense, more fossil fuels being burned, more heating of our atmosphere. Read all about it:

Record demands for power reached Upstate New York's three major electric utilities all set records for electricity demand Thursday as temperatures soared and air conditioners strained to keep up. Statewide, demand was the third-highest on record. Demand appeared to be lower in upstate areas Friday. But exceptionally hot weather in metropolitan New York — the mercury hit 104 degrees Friday afternoon in Manhattan's Central Park — caused the Big Apple to consume a huge amount of electricity and the statewide use figure was near a record level in late afternoon. (July 23, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

Here’s the thing: This is our future. We are going to have to adapt to a warmer environment and that doesn’t mean one that slowly and gradually warms so we can adapt to it at our leisure. It means radical changes with more intense weather (including massive snowfall and rain in the late winter and early spring) and very hot weather days that threaten public health—increasing continually year after year.

Only by addressing Climate Change are we going to relieve future generations from more hot days and extreme weather. Because we didn’t act earlier, we are already condemned to some very hot days for some time into our future. The Carbon Dioxide we have already put into our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, and there’s a lot, has to work its way through our system. We are enduring this and a hotter future because of our activities—not because things are just that way and we are simply victims of some nebulous and mean fate we don’t deserve. We are doing this to ourselves.

But we can do a lot to change this very-hot-future-scenario. We can demand that our government support renewable energy and come up with a Climate Action Plan (like the one in Chicago) to create the kind of massive support for Climate Change measures that will actually work. Small and feel-good measure won’t do the trick—changes have to be made world-wide and by everybody.

To learn more about Climate Change and the incredible changes coming up, make sure you and your family attend Rochester’s Greentopia Festival this September where you can hear Bill McKibben, our foremost leader on Climate Change activism.

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