TThe federal government wants to create a website that can assist people and local governments in coping with the increasing dangers of a warming world.
Days after nearly half the country — 154.6 million people — sweated through a blistering heat wave, which for the West, hasn’t quite finished, the Biden Administration Tuesday unveiled heat.gov, which includes maps, forecasts and health advice. The government can’t lower temperatures in the short-term, but it can shrink heat’s death toll, officials said.
“July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth and summers are getting hotter and deadlier,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Rick Spinrad. “The annual average temperature of the contiguous U.S. has already warmed over the past few decades and is projected to rise by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 to 5 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century.”
Officials said that heat, although it is the number one weather killer, can still be prevented. But officials said even though heat is now the number 1 weather killer and that warming is increasing, there are still ways to prevent deaths. That’s the purpose of the website.
“We don’t have to accept” heat deaths, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Tuesday. “This doesn’t have to be this way.”
The new website is aimed both at local planners to help them decide whether it is too hot for road work, at farmers for planting and harvesting advice, and even “a mom trying to decide this summer: Is it safe for your kids to play outside or to go to summer camp?” Raimondo said.
Pat Breysse is the director of environment health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said that the website’s predictions can be used to help authorities prepare for extreme heat and provide water for those most vulnerable.
“There’s a host of things that we can do with this advance warning from the data that NOAA provides us, particularly from a health standpoint,” Breysse said. Breysse cited earlier attempts by Rhode Island and New Hampshire to improve weather service heat warnings for New Englanders.
The new website could be put to use immediately because record-breaking temperatures are forecast for Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho — heat in the low to mid 100s, Spinrad said.
It follows similar Biden Administration heat action, such as financial assistance to low-income residents to pay for cooling systems, grants to construct new cooling centres, and rules that will apply to workers working outside. Calling climate change “an emergency,” but stopping short of invoking emergency measures, President Biden last week promised more action to fight global warming.
Experts outside the country believe that action and a multi-agency website are long overdue.
“This is an important step for elevating the risks of heat,” said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, past president of the American Meteorological Society. “For too long, heat has been one of the deadliest weather hazards, but has languished from an urgency standpoint,” ignored by the public, media and decision-makers. Shepherd stated that people will run inside when there is a threat of lightning and tornadoes, but they should be more active when it is over 100.
North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello said, “extreme heat is one of our greatest challenges as a county and I’m glad to see the interagency cooperation.”
It’s important that the website shows that heat isn’t just a problem for today “but in the future,” Dello said.
Given warming trends, this summer with its widespread heat waves “is likely to be one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives,” Raimondo said. “That’s a pretty scary thing.”
Wildeman reported out of Hartford, Connecticut.
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