Can’t Beat the Heat

What kills more people in America per year on average? If you said hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards, you would be wrong. Heat waves kill more people on average than tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards combined. Quite a staggering number, but thanks to lessons learned from the 1995 Chicago heat wave, which led to the death of over 700 people, the heat wave that struck the area in early July 2012 was relatively mild. However, experts do see many similarities between the two incidents, according to The heat waves both fell at relatively the same time in July, the day time temperatures were oppressively hot, and the night time temperatures did not cool down significantly.

So, what was the difference between 1995 and this year’s response to the heat wave? For one thing, forecasters were better prepared to give advanced warning about the onset of the high temperatures. Also, a more proactive approach was taken in checking on residents from door-to-door. Finally, cooling centers were moved into areas that were determined to be the hardest hit. And while any death is one too many, the fact that only 20 people, compared to 700, lost their lives as a result of this heat wave shows that lessons were learned from the 1995 event and a difference was made.

This leaves a looming question that needs to be asked: What exactly is to blame for these blazing hot heat waves that last for days and even weeks at a time? Some say global warming. And while the first five months of 2012 have been the hottest ever recorded in the U.S., a single hot streak does not make for a trend. If more and more of these events continue to happen, then the data needs to be reviewed to see if a climate change is occurring. It is hard to argue otherwise though, with June alone having 164 record temperatures tied or broken around the U.S. Only time will tell if this trend continues.

For more information about lessons learned from past heat waves and current hot weather trends, visit: