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New safety tool can help prepare for particularly high temperatures forecasted this summer: 'We'll be able to know how hot is too hot for health'

A record-breaking hot summer means heat waves will be hotter and most likely more deadly.

A record-breaking hot summer means heat waves will be hotter and most likely more deadly.

Photo Credit: iStock

The forecast for most of the United States calls for a scorching summer. A new tool will help warn us how dangerous the coming heat could be.

What is happening?

Many parts of the southern U.S. saw their hottest summer on record in 2023. Oppressive heat spread from the Southwest through the Gulf Coast states and into the Southeast. Cities like Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Mobile, New Orleans, and Miami withered in the wicked heat. 

The National Weather Service warns to brace for another scorching summer season. Summers following eight of the strongest El Niño winters since 1950 were, on average, 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the summer before, as the Washington Post detailed

El Niño is a pattern in the Pacific Ocean when unusually warm water pools near and along the equator in the eastern part of the ocean. This past year featured a strong El Niño that could lead to this upcoming summer being the country's hottest on record.

Why does the forecast for exceptionally warm temperatures matter?

A record-breaking hot summer means heat waves will be hotter and most likely more deadly. High heat and drought conditions are linked. Higher temperatures lead to more evaporation of water which sucks moisture off the surface. Ongoing droughts could increase in intensity and expand in coverage for many parts of our country. 

There will be an elevated risk of wildfires in the West and the Rockies because of increased heat and a lack of moisture. Fortunately, at least in the Rockies, that higher risk may be limited in many areas because of a particularly wet winter there, per the Post.

The northeastern part of the country and the Mid-Atlantic region are favored for more rainfall than usual. The extra heat could help squeeze out heavier rainfall in these areas, which means there is a higher risk of flooding.

What can we do about the potential high heat this summer?

A new tool to help protect yourself from the heat is available in time for the summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with the National Weather Service and launched the HeatRisk Forecast Tool. 

The new initiative provides seven-day nationwide heat forecasts. It uses a five-level scale to show how risky the heat level is in a particular town or city. 

"We'll be able to know how hot is too hot for health," said Aaron Bernstein, the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health Director, in an article in the Washington Post.

Safety tips for dealing with high heat include staying in an air-conditioned location as long as possible. Even if you aren't feeling thirsty, drinking plenty of fluids and taking cool showers or baths also helps. The CDC has much more advice on keeping cool on its website.

Solar shades are an option to help keep cool this summer. There are new ways to design homes to help them deal with the heat. Scientists continue researching ways like this to help us keep cool in a warming world.

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