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FutureStarrAtlanta's Extreme Summer Heat
Atlanta was hit with record heat this summer, sending "feels like" temperatures into triple digits. To help visualize where unshaded pavement and buildings emit heat on an average Labor Day weekend use this slider to see thermal imagery of these hotspots. Experts warn of climate change making summers hotter in cities, and lengthier heat waves, which puts vulnerable individuals at greater risk. Temperature Climate change has altered Atlanta's heat patterns in such a way that it now sees multiple days of extreme summer heat every year - more extreme heat than it did even during the 1970s! At current global temperatures rates, Atlanta could experience up to 77 days with high temperatures exceeding 95 degrees each year! When faced with extreme heat events, it is crucial to remain hydrated and take precautions. Hot weather poses particular threats for older individuals and pregnant women, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical advice immediately. As temperatures have heated up this summer, so have ozone levels. This is cause for great concern because high ozone concentrations can harm respiratory systems and may damage them irreparably. Ozone concentrations tend to peak on extremely hot days; therefore it would be wise for people to remain indoors during these times of heatwave. Atlanta experiences summer for approximately 3.8 months, with July being its peak month. On average, summer temperatures reach an average of 81 degrees Fahrenheit with morning temperatures being warmest and afternoon temperatures being hottest; night-time low temperatures usually remain around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. On an average summer day in Atlanta, the sun's heat is compounded by urban heat island effects; this occurs when manmade surfaces like pavement and buildings absorb sunlight during the day and release it back into the atmosphere at night - increasing city dwellers' chances of feeling hotter than their rural counterparts. Spelman College Professor Guanyu Huang and her team at Spelman are mapping Atlanta's urban heat islands in order to bring about change within the city. She hopes that using data like this one to address environmental injustices that they are currently encountering; such as where certain communities do not have air conditioning or access resources needed to keep themselves cool. Cities participating in NOAA's heat mapping campaign have used its results as leverage in making changes such as turning unused land into public parks or planting more shade trees. Humidity Atlanta can get very hot during summer, but it isn't just the temperature that can make things difficult; humidity also plays a crucial role. Humidity measures how much moisture exists in the air and can make even comfortable temperatures feel hot and oppressive. Atlanta summers can be particularly unpleasant due to both high temperatures and limited precipitation. While Atlanta does experience some rainy days throughout the summer season, it doesn't produce the same levels of rainfall that other East Coast cities typically receive. Atlanta can experience temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, yet humidity makes the heat unbearable for residents of this city. When living in humid air is difficult for the body to adjust due to perspiration not evaporating quickly enough - potentially leading to dehydration, as well as other health concerns. Atlanta's high levels of humidity can often be made even worse by limited air circulation due to smog or other factors, compounding its existing high levels with limited circulation due to limited ventilation systems and other restrictions. This combination can increase heat stress as well as risk for wildfires or create potentially deadly conditions like fire whirls - vortexes of flame and air that resemble tornadoes - that pose real danger. While many Atlantans welcome the hot and humid temperatures as a chance to revive both body and spirit, others can feel discontented with it. According to research by the American Psychiatric Association, hot and humid conditions may trigger symptoms of depression to surface or even lead to attempts at suicide. Climate change is exacerbating heat waves in Atlanta and other US cities. According to Climate Central's analysis of temperature and humidity data from across the US, Atlanta could experience more dangerous or deadly heatwaves by 2050 due to small increases in temperature amplifying heatwaves. Their study focused on several cities but Atlanta stood out due to its significant increases in days with dangerous heat and humidity; other significant increases include Columbus, Savannah and Macon as well. Symptoms Atlanta, renowned for its Southern hospitality, gourmet dining scene and locally produced fermented beverages, can find summer heat to be uncomfortable at best, while for people living with chronic illness or disability it can even be deadly. Extreme summer heat can be dangerous to elderly adults, children under two, those living with heart, kidney or liver diseases and people taking certain medications that interfere with body's ability to regulate temperature - including diuretics (drugs that cause you to lose fluid), antidepressants and some antihistamines. Travelers from cooler climates as well as those on poor diets not receiving sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables could also be at risk in this heatwave; other risks include those taking prescription heat-regulating medicines like Clonidine (for high blood pressure) or certain antipsychotics; those living with diabetes who urinate frequently also put them at risk of heatstroke. Muscle cramps, headache, nausea or vomiting and fatigue are symptoms of heat-related illness that should be taken seriously. If these occur while active, seek shade or air conditioning immediately and drink two to four glasses of cool nonalcoholic fluids every hour - such as water, tea or fruit juice (without added sugar!). Avoid dehydrating faster by choosing foods high in carbohydrates such as soda. If you notice someone experiencing heat-related illness, don't leave them in their parked car even with windows cracked - its interior temperature could quickly reach lethal levels and is best avoided altogether. Instead, move them into an air-conditioned environment while calling 911 immediately. Heat stroke is one of the most serious heat-related health risks, potentially life-threatening. Warning signs for heat stroke include dizziness, headache, nausea and dry, flushed skin. Other indicators may include heavy sweating, weakness thirst confusion irritability or fainting as possible symptoms of heat stroke. The American Psychiatric Association has long linked extreme summer heat with increased aggression and anxiety, potentially leading to domestic violence or other potentially risky behavior. Heat waves also worsen poor air quality by trapping harmful pollutants close to the ground and contributing to ozone formation - particularly problematic in Atlanta where its levels have historically been especially problematic; climate change is projected to make hot weather even more frequent; in Atlanta itself temperatures have already become warmer in 50 years! Prevention Heat-related disorders can be deadly for people living with chronic health conditions or without access to air conditioning. Since 1983, heat has been the leading weather-related cause of deaths in the US, surpassing tornadoes and hurricanes as an extreme weather event. People living with chronic illnesses may find adjusting to extreme heat difficult; elderly adults and young children in particular are susceptible. The National Weather Service advises all individuals to make sure they have access to air conditioning, remain hydrated, and refrain from engaging in strenuous physical activities during high temperatures. Motorists should drive safely when the mercury rises; and never leave people or animals alone in vehicles. Many residents in Atlanta lack access to air conditioning, and those that do can often struggle with its high energy costs and keeping it running effectively. A lack of affordable cooling solutions places disadvantaged families at risk during extreme heat events; community centers and churches may act as unofficial cooling centers during those periods; however, Covid-19 pandemic has made their efforts more challenging than before. Residents living in inner cities face unique challenges during extreme heat waves. "Hotlanta," which comprises more dark surfaces and few trees to provide relief, tends to experience higher temperatures than its rural counterparts. Spelman College, an historically black institution, has joined a NOAA campaign in mapping hot neighborhoods street by street so authorities can respond better when heat waves occur. Students like Kiernicki are collecting data for UrbanHeatATL, part of NOAA's Climate Action Now campaign. Professors Guanyu Huang and Na'Taki Osborne Jelks overseeing this initiative hope to use this information to assist residents of Atlanta prepare for heat waves as well as highlight solutions for those most at risk. Marshall Shepherd, Director of UGA's Atmospheric Sciences program and expert on urban heat island effects, believes cities face triple pressure from extreme summer heat: hotter climate combined with regular heat waves compounding with disparate racial and economic disparities to increase heat islands in cities.