Global Warming and Heat Waves

Burning Sun

"Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves, and the result will be serious for vulnerable populations," said Dr. Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation climate scientist. "That means air pollution in urban areas could get worse, bringing increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. Children, the elderly, poor, and people of color are especially vulnerable to these effects."

More extremely hot summer days are projected for every part of the country, and 30 large cities are especially vulnerable.

Unfortunately, climate models indicate that an average summer in 2050 will have even more days topping 90°F if global warming continues unabated.

National Wildlife Federation Reports on Extreme Heat:

Many Americans in the eastern and southern United States experienced sweltering heat during the summer of 2010. Global temperature records were set during the early summer months, and states and cities also set numerous temperature records.

Watch more about heat waves and how global warming plays a part with Dr. Amanda Staudt, NWF's climate scientist:

See how several cities fared in 2010 compared to past years (click to open pdfs):

 US Map of Heatwaves
Atlanta, GA Oklahoma City, OK Little Rock, AR Raleigh, NC Memphis, TN St. Louis, MO Richmond, VA Boston, MA New York City, NY Philadelphia, PA Pittsburgh, PA Washington, DC Baltimore, MD Charleston, SC Charlotte, NC

Scientists project that if global warming continues unabated, we will see the following impacts:

  • More extreme heat waves.
  • Exacerbated urban air pollution.
  • More vulnerable natural habitats.
  • Negative impacts to agriculture.

Heat waves disproportionately impact people who are poor, elderly, children, or have asthma or heart disease, or live in big cities.

"Global warming is one of the gravest health emergencies facing humanity. It's life-threatening and it's affecting us now," said Dr. Peter Wilk, MD, executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility. "The science confirms that the frequency and duration of heat waves has increased significantly over the last 50 years. In the United States, heat waves already kill more people during a typical year than floods, tornadoes and earthquakes combined. Given these worsening trends, taking decisive action to stop global warming becomes a medical necessity."

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