Millions of people suffer from the dangerous heat wave on July 4th

By MELINA WALLING – Associated Press

According to the National Weather Service, about 134 million people in the United States are on alert as an “extremely dangerous and record-breaking” heat wave hits much of the country.

Regions where temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) or well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) are possible include almost the entire West Coast, the southern Plains, most of the lower Mississippi Valley down to the Ohio Valley and parts of Florida, said Bob Oravec, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Temperatures will rise in the Pacific Northwest later this weekend. Arizona will continue to be hot as firefighters battle a wildfire near Phoenix, where some are dealing with burns from scorching hot asphalt, concrete or other surfaces. And wetter regions will have a muggy weekend.

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“When it’s both humid and hot, you can’t really rely on sweat to cool you down to a safe level,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

It’s a dangerous weather phenomenon that’s coming to a head just in time for a holiday weekend in Northern California. When people are partying, “it’s very easy to get distracted,” stay out longer and forget to stay hydrated, says Chris Stachelski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “And then you suddenly put yourself at greater risk.”

Human-caused climate change is causing heat waves to become longer and more intense. More research is needed to directly link a single event like this to climate change, but given the overall trend, Swain was not surprised by this weekend’s forecast. Still, “the pace of record-breaking heat and precipitation extremes is getting a little overwhelming,” he said.

The expected duration and breadth of this heat wave, as well as the high nighttime temperatures, increase the risks to people’s health. “I think this heat wave could end up being more severe, more dangerous and in many cases more record-breaking than the heat waves that these slightly higher temperatures bring,” Swain said.

Stachelski added that even after the highest temperatures, heat can still be dangerous, especially for the most vulnerable – the young, the old and those without access to air conditioning.

Experts urge people to drink plenty of water and use air conditioning. Big Sur State Parks used Sabrina Carpenter song lyrics to urge hikers to “please, please, please” avoid caffeine and alcohol, use sunscreen and familiarize themselves with the trails in advance.

Persistent high temperatures on the west coast will also dry out vegetation and make the remaining months of the fire season even more severe, Swain said.

“Heat is an underestimated killer,” Swain said, referring to both short-term heat waves like this one and the broader trends of global warming. “We have underestimated it for a long time. And I think we continue to do so at our peril.”

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