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Meteorologists stunned by record-breaking pre-summer temperatures in Miami: 'Those days would have been extraordinary'

That 112-degree heat index smashed the previous record for that date by 11 degrees.

That 112-degree heat index smashed the previous record for that date by 11 degrees.

Photo Credit: iStock

Temperature records have already fallen in Miami, even before summer's official start.

What's happening?

Miami is not unfamiliar with high heat and humidity, but when those two measurements surge so early in the year, it piques the interest of even the most seasoned meteorologists.

"It's completely crazy, what just happened," Brian McNoldy, a senior research scientist at the University of Miami, told The New York Times. "Even if they happened at what is normally the most uncomfortable part of the year, those days would have been extraordinary."

McNoldy was referring to heat index values that soared to 112 degrees on May 18 and 19. The heat index is what it feels like when the air temperature and humidity are considered. That 112-degree heat index smashed a previous record by 11 degrees. 

Meanwhile, Miami's air temperature reached a high of 95 degrees on May 19, according to Weather Underground. Scientists have found our bodies have a much harder time coping with the heat when the air temperature climbs to 104 degrees, though effects can be felt below that, especially when there is high humidity.

Why is record heat in Miami so important?

Sweltering heat so early in the year in places like Miami can be a byproduct of a warming world. Record heat is on the rise. About 11,000 record-high temperatures had been set in the United States through the first five months of this year. The number of record highs had doubled the number of record lows set during this period.

This year is off to a hot start globally. As of April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported a 61% chance that 2024 would end up as the warmest year on record and a 100% chance it would rank in the top five. The heat is a serious threat to our health. A new study published in PLOS Medicine estimated that heatwaves between 1990 and 2019 were responsible for more than 150,000 deaths per year.

Miami's surging heat isn't limited to land. The ocean waters around Florida are heating up, too, and that is one of the reasons NOAA's hurricane forecast is the most aggressive ever. In late May, NOAA issued a seasonal prediction for the Atlantic of 8 to 13 hurricanes, with 4 to 7 forecast to strengthen to Category 3 or stronger.

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What's being done about the heat?

Miami residents know the drill when it comes to dealing with extreme heat. The National Weather Service says eating light; wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothes; and minimizing direct exposure to the sun are just a few ways to keep cool.

The bigger issue is how we can help cool an overheating world. 

Reducing our carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a result of our use of dirty energy, can help. Carbon dioxide is a toxic gas that absorbs infrared radiation and warms the earth. Changing how we get around is just one example of reducing the amount of this gas going into our atmosphere.

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