Climate Matters

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Story Highlights

  • The number of extremely hot days continues to rise across the U.S.

  • Both urban and rural areas have shown substantial warming trends.

  • Threats from heat stress and heat stroke will likely rise further in coming decades.

INCREASING EXTREMES

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2014 was the hottest year on record globally, and the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. As greenhouse gases continue to build and warm the planet, we are seeing an increased number of hot days in the U.S.

While the hottest days of the year are usually during meteorological summer, extreme heat can kick in during late spring and last into early fall. The rise in extreme heat during this time of year brings more than just inconvenience and higher cooling bills.

TOUGHER TO COPE

As temperatures rise, so do evaporation rates. This draws more water vapor into the atmosphere, increasing humidity. Higher humidity makes it more difficult for the body to cool itself. As a consequence, heat exhaustion and heat stroke become greater concerns, especially in large cities.

Cities are further made hotter by the urban heat island effect. Concrete, bricks, and pavement absorb heat during the day and release it at night, which is why cities are warmer than rural locations. However, both rural and urban areas have showed warming in the past decades, so urban heat islands are not solely responsible for the observed rise in temperatures.

Extreme heat waves are usually accompanied by huge domes of hot air, building thousands of feet into the atmosphere. These domes are often cut off from the main jet stream flow, meaning the air stays in the same place for several days, creating air stagnation. With so little movement, pollutants get trapped in the atmosphere, worsening the air quality and increasing the struggle for those with respiratory conditions.

EUROPEAN HEAT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate Change Plays Significant Role in European Heat Wave
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A team of international scientists, lead by the World Weather Attribution team, found that it is virtually certain climate change increased the likelihood of the recent European heat wave.


ADDITIONAL GRAPHICS TO TELL THE STORY

Localized projections of extremely hot days

INTERACTIVE:
1001 Blistering Future Summers

Bonus: Localized TV-ready graphics showing future summers in your city

Find out when the hottest part of summer typically arrives

REPORT:
Hot and Getting Hotter - Heat Islands Cooking U.S. Cities

Brought to you by Climate Central