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The History of Heat Waves

Braedon Harris, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Nearly 100 people died in Japan after a heat wave struck the country in late July and is the most recent example of a recurring problem seen across the world. In the U.S. alone, nearly 700 deaths a year are linked to extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A heat wave is defined as a period of excessively hot weather. In many cases, it is accompanied by high humidity, which has a major role effect on the human body. When humans are exposed to high heat and humidity, sweating is a bodily response in an effort to cool down. When sweat dries on the skin, it evaporates quickly, which has a cooling effect on the body. However, on humid days -when the air already holds a high water content-sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and the body does not cool properly.

As a result, the combination of heat and humidity can be harmful to the human body. As the body moves further from heat exhaustion and closer to a heatstroke, there can be extensive ramifications. Although there are few studies that follow survivors of heat waves and the heat’s long term effects, it is clear that being exposed to excessive heat for days, weeks and even months is harmful. During heat waves, many are hospitalized and treated due to loss of consciousness, organ issues, high body temperature, headaches and other problems. By taking the steps recommended by state and local authorities and getting proper treatment from medical professionals, many who are affected are able to beat the heat.

Despite the dangers seen when exposed to excessive and prolonged heat, many see heat waves as minor inconveniences. Nevertheless, heat waves have proved to be major disasters throughout history. In 1955, a heat wave that struck Chicago caused over 650 deaths. Almost 60 years prior, a 10-day heat wave proved fatal for nearly 1,500 people in New York City. More recently, heat waves in 2006 and 2012 killed over 120 people across the country. Furthermore, the 2012 heat wave across the American Midwest caused crop failures worth over $30.3 billion.

Although many believe heat waves to be a result of global warming, this has not been verified. The increase in the number of heat waves could be attributed to global warming, but it’s not the sole cause.


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Braedon Harris, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Class of 2019.  I'm In MST and the Engineering program.  I didn't even choose to be in Newspaper, but it turned out pretty good.

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