Editorial: Stay on top of the heat
This week has been awful.
The numbers tell the story: 98 degrees on Monday, 96 on Tuesday, 102 on Independence Day and a record-breaking 103 on Thursday.
But mostly it has just been hot, sticky and uncomfortable.
Let’s keep it that way.
Chicago is moving into potentially deadly territory as the heat wave moves into its fifth day. As Chicago learned in the 1995 heat wave that killed 739 people, the risks of heat-related illnesses are greatest after prolonged exposure to heat.
So far, a much better prepared Chicago is faring well. At this point in the 1995 heat wave, the bodies already were piling up, though that heat wave started with more intense temperatures. As of Thursday evening, the Cook County medical examiner’s office had confirmed two heat-related deaths.
The city learned its lesson in recent years. The Chicago Public Schools canceled classes on Thursday and Friday, and the city has kicked into high gear, sending out extreme-weather alerts, making well-being checks, opening up cooling centers and cooling buses and offering tips on keeping cool. Chicagoans also are urged to check in on neighbors and relatives.
It’s good we’re getting this down because extreme weather apparently is becoming the norm. A long list of scientists interviewed for an Associated Press story this week said that the wild weather seen across the country in recent weeks — drought, wildfires, floods and oppressive heat — are a glimpse of what global warming looks like. Since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported.
Today’s extreme weather fits that pattern, though it’s too early to peg global warming as the cause. That process takes rigorous study and time.
“This is what global warming is like, and we’ll see more of this as we go into the future,” Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research told the AP.