New Bern, NC –
INTRO - If you thought summertime temperatures this year were a bit warmer than usual, you weren't imagining it they were. But what has some concerned is the relative lack of cooling occurring during overnight hours. George Olsen has more.
It was hot this summer, and there are numbers from reporting North Carolina weather stations to prove it.
"66% of stations had the hottest day time temperature broken. 93% of N-C stations had the day time temperatures in the hottest top 5, so in terms of day time that's a lot of records broken."
Kim Knowlton is a senior scientist with the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC has compiled a list of average temperatures in the June to August period for this year and come up with record breaking figures. However, hot conditions during July and August summertime afternoons certainly aren't news to North Carolinians. What has the NRDC standing up and taking notice are those hot temperatures continued to manifest themselves at night as well.
"NRDC's new report show that nationwide 36 million people live in counties where there were record breaking hot summer nights recorded this past summer, and in North Carolina 90% of stations had night time temperatures among the five hottest ever recorded since 1895. That means over 1.7 million N-C residents in 19 counties lived where those records were set."
For example, Morehead City had an average temperature during the period just over 80 degrees with the average nighttime temperature only cooling to about 73... both records for the reporting station. The lack of night time cooling is a topic of concern not just because of concerns about global warming but to the more immediate effects on human health. Knowlton says the human body needs that nighttime cooling to best maintain health and as nighttime temperatures stay comparatively high, people aren't receiving that with deleterious effect on their health.
"It's much more than heat stroke. Heat contributes to a whole range of not just premature mortality unfortunately but illnesses and ailments heart, lung, kidney ailments also kidney stones, people with migraine headaches. A study of 7000 patients found that for every 9 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature there's a 7.5% increase in the risk of severe migraine headaches."
Knowlton says this was an "unusual" year in regard to night time temperatures, but the day time figures are part of a continuing trend
"Over twice as many, that's 2.04 2.04 times as many record daily highs as record lows in the U-S in the last decade, and that was up from 1.36 times as many highs as lows in the 90s."
The NRDC is advocating Congress, as Knowlton says, to "get back to their task of passing energy and climate legislation" that will enable the Environmental Protection Agency to "uphold their role in protecting public health." Fighting pollution exacerbating global warming is key to that because one of the groups most susceptible to heat related illnesses is expected to see a rapid rise in numbers.
"Right now there are 40 million Americans age 65 and older. That number is expected to climb to 72 million by 2030, that's the fastest rate of increase in a century. I'm really concerned that the number of vulnerable people, those vulnerable to heat, are increasing just at the time that heat in the day time and especially at night time is skyrocketing in the U-S."
Kim Knowlton is a senior scientist with the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. I'm George Olsen.