The effects of extreme heat are felt throughout California. The 2006 California heat wave caused over 16,000 emergency room visits and over 1,100 hospitalizations.
Extreme heat events will become more common in the coming years. By 2100, average daily temperatures are expected to rise 5.6°-8.8° F. Effects from extreme heat can range from mild heat cramps to dehydration to death. Certain populations, such as elderly people living alone, face much greater health risks during heat waves.
How does climate change affect extreme heat?
Greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, absorb heat radiated from the earth's surface. This heat is then radiated back to earth's surface, causing a "greenhouse effect". Human-induced emissions have strengthened this effect, leading to global warming.
How does extreme heat impact health?
People suffer from heat-related illness when the body's natural temperature controls become overloaded. Uncontrolled body temperatures can damage an individual's brain or other vital organs. Increases in nighttime heat are particularly dangerous, as this is a time when our bodies can cool off and recover. Nighttime temperatures have been increasing at a higher rate than daytime temperatures. Learn more about identifying and preventing heat-related illness.
Who will be most affected?
Populations vulnerable to heat include:
- The elderly
- Socially isolated individuals
- Individuals with existing health issues
- Individuals living in poor or urban areas
- Individuals who are active outdoors (workers, athletes, etc.)
What can you do?
We know that climate change will bring an increase in extreme heat for many communities. There are ways to make sure you and your community are prepared and stay safe during heat spells.
- Encourage greening in your community. Tree planting provides much needed shade while also removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
- Reduce sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest, and minimize physical activities during that time.
- When working outside, drink plenty of water or juice, even if not thirsty. Take frequent rest breaks in the shade.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers your face and neck, and wear cool, loose fitting clothing.
- NEVER leave infants, children, the elderly, or the frail unattended in a car. The same applies to family pets. The temperature inside the car can climb to lethal levels in just 10 minutes.
- Use cool compresses, mists, and cool showers or baths to prevent overheating. If you or someone else experiences a rapid pulse, delirium, or has a temperature above 102 degrees, call 911 immediately.