For many that reside in California, high temperatures are to be expected in the spring, summer and even early fall seasons. But many California residents feel as if the extreme heat spells are getting longer, the especially hot days are getting hotter and summer nights don’t seem to offer as much relief as they used to.
These issues aren’t simply Californians growing tired of the summer heat; it is getting worse and it is part of a global issue. The worsening of the summer heat not only in California, but around the world, is simply another way global warming has made its presence known in everyday life.
Almost every year, nationwide summer temperatures break one record or another; just last year, the summer season was the fourth-hottest on record, with the average temperature nationwide being 2.1 degrees above average at 73.5 degrees fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A major red flag that drew attention to this past summer in particular is the fact that nighttime summer temperatures were the hottest on record, at an average of 60.9 degrees, according to NOAA.
“In general … summer overnight low temperatures are warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as afternoon high temperatures for the U.S,” says NOAA. These warming nighttime temperatures are an indicator of the atmosphere’s growing inability to cool off, a consequence of global warming.
Warmer overnight temperatures aren’t just uncomfortable to sleep in; we need the cooler temperatures at night in order for our bodies to recover from being in the summer heat, especially in particularly hot areas. If this relief period is interrupted or simply never happens, the constant heat can be detrimental to the human body as “heat stress” accumulates with no outlet.
The impact global warming has had on the atmosphere does not end with warmer temperatures; climate change experts are cautioning that extreme summer weather is probable in the near future. “Extratropical cyclones,” mixtures of cool and warm air high in the atmosphere, play critical roles in moving storms across the country as well as blowing pollution out of cities and essentially “cleaning” the air.
However, the warming of atmospheric temperatures has decreased the amount of cool air available for these cyclones to form, producing several negative consequences; for instance, pollution builds up in city air for days instead of being routinely blown out by winds, becoming almost dangerous to breathe. Additionally, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences cites the weakening of these systems as a potential cause of the longer heat waves people across California and the nation as a whole have noticed.
The study also stated the “cyclones are pushing available energy to the storms in their extremities,” meaning that summer thunderstorms could potentially be much stronger; up to 13 percent more energy may be pushed into such storms. Another contributing factor to this is the increased moisture in the air as ice continues to melt into the rising seas, leading to more instances of short, torrential bursts of rainfall that many have experienced in summers past. These stronger storms are also warned to be potentially much more destructive in the coming summers, becoming another price to pay for global warming.