Tuesday, July 16, 2024
HomeEnvironmentHeat, storms and electricity outages pose ominous future threat

Heat, storms and electricity outages pose ominous future threat

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As the northern summer grinds on, the unpredictability of heatwaves and wild weather in various parts of the world, increasingly attributed to the impact of climate change, is a cause for unease.

Sustained heat waves have hit many American cities this summer, and heat exhaustion has been blamed for several deaths.  Currently, more than 50 million people are under heat alerts.

Las Vegas temperatures have exceeded 110 degrees each day since last Wednesday and are forecast to do so every day until at least next Sunday. This marks a stretch of prolonged extreme heat, longer than any ever experienced in the city, with 11 days or more above 110 degrees.

As of the time of writing, the city was experiencing a scorching 111-degree F shortly after 1 pm on Tuesday. The heat was so intense that it was enough to melt crayons, as the Las Vegas Weather Service office demonstrated with a picture on X.

CNN reported that many areas in Northern California surpassed 110 degrees on Sunday, while Phoenix, Arizona, set a new daily record for the warmest low temperature: it never got below 92 degrees. Las Vegas made history, reaching a record high of 120 degrees on Sunday.

Heat more deadly

Heat is the deadliest weather threat in the US. It kills more than twice as many people each year as hurricanes and tornadoes combined.

Meanwhile, some parts of the States and Caribbean are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Beryl, one of the earliest and most powerful storms the area has ever experienced.

On July 8, Beryl left two million people without power in Texas. The combination of no power and no air conditioning put hundreds of thousands in the region under considerable stress.

The combination of a hurricane, heat wave and a multi-day power outage is a nightmare scenario, but it’s one set to become more common as humans continue to warm the planet, fueling devastating extreme weather. 

Worldwide, demand for air conditioning is expected to triple by 2050.

European countries experienced air conditioning issues in June when temperatures in southern Europe topped 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Parts of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro experienced hours-long blackouts as electricity demand spiked.

Old world infrastructure

The heat and weather-related issues over the past month often relate to what many climate experts are calling ‘old world infrastructure’, a worldwide issue.

One example occurred with Manhattan’s Third Avenue Bridge. The bridge normally pivots to allow marine traffic to pass, but on July 8, it heated up so much that the structure expanded and could not be closed to allow traffic to pass. Firemen spent hours cooling it down using thousands of litres of water.

Wildfires in California earlier this month occurred during a heatwave that broke many all-time heat records in the West, including an astonishing 122 degrees Fahrenheit in Palm Springs. One consequence was that it was too hot for firefighters to fight the fires without risking heatstroke. A little hotter and water bombers and helicopters would not have been able to fly.

Old-world infrastructure problems are everywhere.

Most buildings and homes in European cities like London, Paris and Madrid have no air conditioning. When an extreme heat wave hits, the people who live and work there are increasingly vulnerable (a study published in Nature Medicine estimated there were more than 60,000 heat-related deaths in Europe during the summer of 2022).

Climate writer Jeff Goodall says cities are becoming “human frying pans.” In Phoenix this summer, surface temperatures on streets and sidewalks hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit – even a few seconds of contact could cause severe burns.

In New Zealand, both the Government and local councils are making an effort to address the infrastructure issue over the long term; however, there are still many loose ends. Only last week, an official enquiry was announced into why sandbar work was not completed before another deluge inundated parts of Wairoa township for the second year in a row.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is talking about the need for an infrastructure ‘war chest’ for his city, and many Australian cities are developing similar plans.

Already, New Zealand’s previous Labour-led Government has said it is likely that some rural roads may never be rebuilt if destroyed by severe weather events in the future, and planners are actively discussing “managed retreat” in some coastal communities.

Whole Food Living reviews and selects material from a wide variety of international sources. Our primary focus covers food, health and environment. We publish fact checked official announcements made as the result of formal studies conducted by Universities, respected health care organisations, journals, and scientists around the globe.

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