Unusually Hot Nights Make This Heat Wave Deadly

Human activity has changed the formula, scientists say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 20, 2024 4:55 PM CDT
Climate Change Makes Unusual Heat at Night Far More Likely
Margarita Salazar, 82, wipes the sweat off with a tissue inside her home in Veracruz, Mexico, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

Human-caused climate change dialed up the thermostat and turbocharged the odds of this month's killer heat that has been baking the Southwestern US, Mexico, and Central America, a new flash study found. Sizzling daytime temperatures that triggered cases of heatstroke in parts of the US were 35 times more likely and 2.5 degrees hotter because of the warming from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas, World Weather Attribution, a collection of scientists that runs rapid and climate attribution studies that are not peer reviewed, calculated Thursday, the AP reports.

"It's an oven here; you can't stay here," 82-year-old Magarita Salazar Pérez of Veracruz, Mexico, said in her home, which has no air conditioning. Last week, the Sonoran Desert hit 125 degrees, the hottest day in Mexican history, according to study co-author Shel Winkley, a meteorologist at Climate Central. And it was even worse at night, which is what has made this heat wave so dangerous, said Imperial College of London climate scientist Friederike Otto, who coordinates the attribution study team. Climate change made nighttime temperatures 2.9 degrees higher and unusual evening heat 200 more times more likely, she said. There's just been no cool air at night like people are used to, Salazar Pérez said. Doctors say lower night temperatures are key to surviving a heat wave.

At least 125 people have died, according to the World Weather Attribution team. "This is clearly related to climate change, the level of intensity that we are seeing, these risks," said study co-author Karina Izquierdo, an urban adviser for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Center. The alarming part about this heat wave is that it's no longer out of the ordinary, Otto said. Past studies by the group have looked at heat so extreme that they found it impossible without climate change, but this heat wave not so much. "The changes we have seen in the last 20 years, which feels like just yesterday, are so strong," Otto said. Her study found that this heat wave is now four times more likely to happen now than it was in 2000.

(More climate change stories.)

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