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Heat Waves & Impact on Health, Agriculture, Energy and Resilience by City-Tech Blogger Jonathan Saldana

According to scientists and what we all have noticed across the globe, hot days are getting hotter and more frequent, while we’re experiencing fewer cold days. Over the past decade, daily record high temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows across the continent. Therefore, heat waves are becoming more common, especially in the U.S. Many researchers are saying that by midcentury, if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly curtailed, they expect 20 record highs for every record low. In parts of the South, the frequency of days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could triple, to over 75 days per year. Therefore, extreme heat can increase the risk of other types of disasters; for instance heat can exacerbate droughts or another climate change effects. The severe heat waves have caused catastrophic crop failure, thousands of deaths from hyperthermia especially in the elderly and children. Also, there is widespread power outages due to increased use of air conditioning. The impact of heat on our body can be serious because exposure to more heat can cause health problems and may affect performance. Another symptom of heat is seen in an increase of one’s irritability. As we all know heat exhaustion happens when your body gets too hot and that can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion itself. This can cause shock, organ failure, or brain damage. As the molecules heat and move faster, they are moving apart therefore, air, like most other substances, expands when heated and contracts when cooled and air is less dense than the surrounding matter and hot air floats upwards.

According to an article called “Heat Waves and Climate Change,”  extreme heat is “the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. killing more people on average (about 600 per  year) than hurricanes, lighting, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods combined. It is also considered that heat waves have been the fourth top 10 deadliest disaster in the U.S.  since 1980. This effect is due to high humidity and elevated nighttime temperatures appear to be causing heat related illness and mortality. Daily minimum temperatures in the U.S. are increasing slightly faster than daily maximum temperatures. Regarding agriculture, high temperature at night can be particularly damaging to agriculture because crops require cool night temperatures, and heat stress for livestock rises with animals not being able to cool off at night. Other effects can cause declines in milk production, slower growth, and reduced conception rates. Heat waves also effect energy as stated before the increase of electricity demand for cooling as it has been observed over the past 20 years. This can reduce the thermal efficiency of power production, make it difficult for power plants to comply with environmental regulations regarding their cooling water.

Overall, resilience should come in the form of creating a heat preparedness plan and opening centers during extreme heat. Using green roofs will improve building materials and shaded building construction can reduce the urban heat effect in places like New York City and by pursuing energy efficiency to reduce demand on the electricity grid during heat waves. Finally, proper shading and cooling livestock or breeding livestock selectively for heat tolerance and switching to growing more heat resistant crops can help with damaging heat waves.

 

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  1. This issue is not a joke whatsoever, my grandfather lost his farm due to increased temperatures which affected the moisture in the soil and the overall layout of the ground. Many others around him faced the same trouble he has faced which was land that became unstable and infertile. He was forced to sell the land for what he could but it wasn’t much due to the condition the land was in. It was very dry and did not seem like anything could be done in order to restore the farm back to its normal state and fully functional. I myself actually experienced a heat stroke one summer when I was vacationing there and helping him out with the farm work that needed to be done. I was working on something one day and before i started on my work I could tell that the day would gradually get hotter and hotter but I needed to get what my grandpa asked me to do finished. Instead of going into the house to cool off and take a minute to relax, I decided to continue working up until I was finished with my work. As I approached the end of my job I started to feel very weird and weak. I felt as if I was going into shock. I was rushed to the hospital to be taken a look at and when I arrived they could see something was wrong with me. I felt very hungry and tired, so after the necessary protocol one should take when having a patient undergo a heat stroke, was give me a food infusion because of being too tired to eat. After a couple of days I returned back to my normal state and realized that next time I should have taken a break.

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