The Skywriter

Heat wave


Heat wave

Sun and thermometer

Those of us who live on the East Coast are slowly melting under an oppressive heat wave stretching from New York and Boston to the Carolinas. Here in the Washington DC area, the heat is not just unbearable but downright dangerous: We're literally under a Code Red, or excessive heat advisory.

On the positive side (and trust me, I looked long and hard for a positive side), at least this heat wave serves as a reminder of what we have to look forward to as the "new normal" if we don't do something about climate change --- fast.

The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report in 2006 on the potential effects of climate change on the Northeast (as well as California), and on the temperature front alone, the results are sobering. This graphic illustrates the dramatic difference in projected temperatures under a low-emission scenario vs. a high-emission scenario:


The problem will be especially acute in the major cities of the Northeast:

The number of days over 90°F is projected to increase until, by the end of the century, some cities could experience nearly an entire summer with temperatures greater than 90°F under a higher-emission scenario. These projections also show a dramatic increase in the currently few but blisteringly hot days over 100°F.

Let's take Boston as an example. Currently, Boston experiences an average of 10 days over 90° a year. According to UCS, under a high-emission scenario, by the period between 2070-2099, Boston would experience 64 days over 90° a year--that's double what it would experience under a low-emission scenario.

However unpleasant, this heat wave does underscore the point that we need bold action on climate change from our leaders here in Washington. And by bold I don't mean anything like the Lieberman-Warner bill that died recently in the Senate: I mean a serious effort, based on what the science demands to make a real difference.


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