Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat Wave to Continue Choking mid-Atlantic, Northeast U.S.

The mid-Atlantic and northeast United States is well into the third day of a historic heatwave that is now rivaling and could end up breaking records set in the two memorable heat waves during the summer of 2006. That summer in New York City alone, 46 people died when the furnace went on full blast in late July and early August.

So far during July 2010 in the Big Apple, the first six days have averaged six degrees hotter than the same period last year. The conditions have prompted the National Weather Service to issue heat advisories and excessive heat warnings, as well as air quality alerts for not only the megalopolis, but cities from the Ohio Valley to North Carolina, and northward to southern New England and upstate New York. And guess what? The heat is expected to last all week, with highs reaching the mid-90s to 100+ through Friday. For some cities that would mark one full week with 90+ degree heat.

So what is causing the extreme heat wave? A heat wave occurs when an immense dome of high pressure builds over an area, causing air in the upper levels of the 'dome' (or atmosphere) to be pulled toward the ground, where it becomes compressed and increases in temperature as it expands. This high concentration of pressure makes it difficult for other weather systems to move into the area, which is why a heat wave can last for several days or weeks, such as we are seeing right now. The longer the system stays in an area, the hotter the area becomes, and because t
he high-pressure system also prevents clouds from entering the region, sunlight can become punishing, heating up the system even more. And what makes it even worse – the pressure causes winds to become faint to nonexistent, further suppressing any relief from the heat.

So how will you beat the heat? Here's some tips to help you try!
  • Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level, and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink
  • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and be sure to dress for the weather
  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours
  • Cut down on exercise during the day, and if you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat – an accessory which should also keep you cooler
These tips are wise and just a few ways to keep comfortable during this rather oppressive time. But get used to it – it's only the first week of July. We have the rest of the month and all of August ahead of us. Climatologically speaking, the hottest time of the year typically runs from July 20 through August 10.

Stay cool!