BILLIONThe federal government hopes a new website can help residents and local governments get through deadly heat of a warming world.
The days after nearly half of the country – 154.6 million people – sweated through the scorching heatwave are, for the West, not yet over, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced. Heat.gov, including maps, forecasts and health tips. Officials say the government cannot bring the temperature down in the short term, but it can reduce the number of deaths from heat.
“July 2021 is the hottest month on record on Earth, and summers are getting hotter and more deadly,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director Rick Spinrad. “The average annual temperature of the contiguous United States has warmed over the past few decades and is expected to rise by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 to 5 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century.”
But officials said even though the heat is number 1 weather killers, and warming is getting worse, deaths can still be prevented. That is the purpose of the website.
“We don’t have to accept heat deaths,” said Commerce Minister Gina Raimondo. “This doesn’t have to be like this.”
The new site targets local planners as well to help them decide if it’s okay too hot for road work, for farmers for advice on planting and harvesting, and even “a mother trying to decide this summer: Does your child play outdoors or go to summer camp? Is it safe?” Raimondo said.
Pat Breysse, director of environmental health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the predictions the new website made could help authorities plan extreme heat before and to protect those who are highest riskby setting up cooling and water supply centers, for example.
“There is a lot we can do with this advance warning from the data that NOAA gives us, especially from a health standpoint,” Breysse said. He points to earlier efforts by Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to change the weather service’s heat warnings to make them more effective for New Englanders.
The new site could be put to use immediately as record temperatures are forecast in Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho — the lowest temperatures through the mid-100s, Spinrad said.
The site tracks other actions by the Biden Administration on heat issues, including financial assistance to help air-condition low-income residents, funding to build cooling centers New regulations are coming for workers in the hot sun and helping cities cool urban heat islands with more tree cover. Calling climate change The “emergency situation,” but it doesn’t stop at invoking emergency measures, President Biden last week promised more action to combat global warming.
Outside experts say the websites and actions of many agencies are long overdue.
“This is an important step toward reducing the risk of heatwaves,” said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Association. “For too long, heat has been one of the deadliest weather hazards, but has been swayed by urgency,” ignored by the public, media and decision-makers. Shepherd said people run inside against the threat of lightning or tornadoes, but act on their own when the heat index is 100 or higher.
“Severe heat is one of our biggest challenges as a county, and I’m excited to see the interdisciplinary collaboration,” said North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello.
Crucially, the site shows that heat is not just an issue today “but in the future,” Dello said.
Given the warming trend, this summer with widespread heat waves “will likely be one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives,” Raimondo said. “It’s a pretty scary thing.”
Wildeman reported from Hartford, Connecticut.
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