Sunday December 15, 2019

Dangerously High Temperatures in United States could Quickly Cause Heat Stress

The NWS advises people to check in on relatives and friends, especially the elderly

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Temperature, United States, Heat Stress
Tourists gather around the Capitol pond with the Washington Monument in the background on a hot day in Washington, DC as temperature rises into the upper 80s Fahrenheit, Friday, July 19, 2019. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet). VOA

The National Weather Service warned that dangerously high temperatures and humidity in the United States over the weekend could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke, if precautions are not taken. The NWS advises people to check in on relatives and friends, especially the elderly.

Temperatures have been rising in cities from the Midwest to the East Coast because of a high pressure system that has trapped the  warm air.  City officials are allowing public pools to stay open longer and municipalities are issuing advisories to inform the public about how best to deal with the heat.

Forecasters say temperatures in New York City will reach 33 degrees Celsius Saturday, but with the humidity, it will feel like 43 degrees Celsius.

Saturday in the nation’s capital will reach 38 degrees Celsius and Philadelphia will go up to 36 degrees Celsius.

Temperature, United States, Heat Stress
The National Weather Service warned that dangerously high temperatures and humidity in the United States over the weekend could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke. Pixabay

The World Meteorological Organization says June 2019 was the planet’s warmest month ever. In addition, both land and sea temperatures set record highs in June.

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June was also Europe’s hottest June on record, according to the WMO. Greenland, Alaska and parts of South America, Africa and Asia had temperatures substantially above normal in June, according to the WMO.  The organization said India and Pakistan experienced a severe heatwave in the early part of June, before the onset of the monsoon season. (VOA)

Next Story

Glaciers in Alaska Melting due to Climate Change

Disappearing Frontier: Alaska's Glaciers Retreating at Record Pace

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Alaska Glaciers
A sign marks where the end of the Exit glacier was in 2010 near tourists taking photos in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. VOA

Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.

Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.

Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.

“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.

At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.

Chugach National Forest Alaska
Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds photos showing this summer’s ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska, U.S. VOA

“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.

Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.

“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.

Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.

Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.

Casting off chunks

Barack Obama Alaska
President Barack Obama views Bear Glacier on a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska. VOA

Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.

Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.

“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.

Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.

There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.

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Changes in the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so fast that they are hard to track, said O’Neel at USGS, who measured the melt at Wolverine Glacier in September.

“Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.” (VOA)