The National Weather Service has warned that extreme heat will affect more than 100 million people in the United States this week, with triple-digit temperatures in some states and breaking temperature records in many parts of the country.
“Above normal temperatures will continue to prevail across much of the United States through the end of the week, with a significant portion of the population remaining under heat advisories and warnings,” the agency said.
Heat warnings and advisories have been put in place for 28 states, with central and southern states hit hardest by the scorching heat.
Parts of Oklahoma reached 115F (46C) this week, while the Dallas area reached 109F (42C).
Tulsa, Oklahoma Emergency Medical Services reported an increase in heat-related emergency calls this year. The city’s emergency medical services authority said it received nearly 250 calls this year, a number typically hit later in the summer.
“It’s very concerning,” the department’s Adam Paluka told CNN. “Especially because the number of patients transported indicates that some of these calls are heatstroke, which can be fatal.”
In the northeast, where temperatures are settling at over 90 F (32 C), city leaders have warned residents to limit outdoor activities during the hottest hours of the day.
Philadelphia declared a “heat-related health emergency” on Thursday and set up a “heat line” number for residents suffering from intense heat. Boston has opened community centers and swimming pools for residents to cool off.
“Climate change is clearly a risk to our health,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Wednesday. “I urge everyone to stay cool and safe, and check on your neighbors this week. “
In Phoenix, America’s hottest city, an extreme heat warning was in place Thursday and Friday. The temperature is expected to reach 113F (45c) Thursday afternoon and 115F (46C) Friday afternoon. Heat advisories are only issued when temperatures are above average for the time of year, and in Phoenix in July, that means temperatures above 112F. So far this year, the city has broken or equaled four daytime highs and nine overnight lows.
The impact of heat is cumulative and the body does not begin to recover until temperatures drop below 80F. Climatologists have warned that heatwaves – which have spread across Europe and Asia this summer – will be more intense and prolonged if the climate emergency is not addressed. A study published in May showed that human influence on the climate made a particular heat wave in South Asia 30 times more likely to have occurred.
Speaking in Somerset, Massachusetts on Wednesday about the climate crisis, Joe Biden said global warming was an “emergency” but did not declare a national emergency, as activists hoped. Such a statement would allow Biden to block crude oil imports or order the military to work on renewable energy production. The White House said a formal emergency declaration was “still on the table.”
“It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger,” Biden said. “The health of our citizens and our communities is literally at stake.”
Additional reporting by Nina Lakhani