It’s miserable out. That glowing orb in the sky, conspiring with it’s nefarious pal, humidity, is making stepping out the front door feel like wading through a bowl of boiling soup.
According to the National Weather Service, in the Charleston area, every day in July has topped average temperatures, save one. Temperatures have hit 90 degrees or higher on most of those days, and it’s expected to continue through at least July 27.
What’s kind of astonishing is that none of these days have set any records for temperatures. The record-high for July in Charleston is 108 degrees, which happened on Independence Day in 1931. For the state, the record is 112 degrees, reached twice — in Moorefield in 1930 and Martinsburg in 1935. It’s hard to even imagine that type of heat. The face-melting scene at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” comes to mind.
There’s nothing abnormal about a heat wave in the summer, but the frequency of days topping 90 degrees is alarming and a clear indicator of a warming climate.
It can be annoying to broach the climate topic in the midst of a heat wave — maybe because it seems like that’s the only time anyone wants to talk about it. But it’s important to remember that climate and weather are not the same thing. Weather consists of the measurable factors today, over the past few days and the immediate future, whereas climate deals with long-term patterns and conditions. And there are long-term patterns that have shifted.
For instance, according to the climate tracker at the New York Times, the temperature in Charleston would have hit 90 degrees about nine times in 1980. By 2018, that number was 22. The greater Charleston area is well on its way to surpassing even that number this year. There’s no denying severe weather incidents, especially disasters like floods and tropical storms, have become worse and more frequent in recent years.
Obviously, the viability of the planet, in the long run, should be a chief concern, and there’s the big stuff, such as rising sea levels and unlivable conditions for humans, plants and animals, that has to be taken into account. But the effects of a changing climate are a problem now.
Rising heat and toxic air have a direct health effect, and more frequent disasters are devastating to health and infrastructure. That’s bad enough, but all of those things cost more money to fix. Running utilities to keep homes and businesses cool also costs more, and it places a strain on the energy grid.
The number of days where heat saps the life out of everyone and everything will only go up if nothing is done.
Fortunately, America is already moving to address some of these issues. Power companies are looking to cut carbon emissions, if not out of the goodness of their corporate hearts, then for the basic reason that renewables are becoming more cost-effective, along with natural gas.
West Virginia also has taken some good first steps, like the solar energy initiative passed in this year’s legislative session.
All of that is encouraging, but there is a lot more to do, from the individual level up the ladder to businesses and government. Just acknowledging the problem is a stumbling block for some. But it’s going to take everyone doing their part, and the time might be sooner, rather than later.