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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Sizzling Heatwave, Smoky Wildfires: US Battling Extreme Dual Threat

Severe weather conditions persist across vast areas of the United States, with scorching triple-digit temperatures in the south and southwest, while the midwest grapples with smoke pollution.

According to CNN, both Chicago and Detroit experienced the world’s most unhealthy air for several hours on Tuesday evening due to the drifting smoke from unprecedented wildfires in Canada. Air quality alerts have been issued for over 80 million individuals, primarily spanning from the Midwest to the east coast.

Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, emphasized the ongoing risk as long as the fires continue. Any northward wind movement carries the potential for smoky conditions. Joel Thornton, the professor, and chair of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, predicted that the warming planet will lead to more intense and prolonged heatwaves, resulting in larger and smokier fires.

In response to the situation in Chicago, authorities are advising young people, older adults, and individuals with health concerns to limit their outdoor exposure and spend more time indoors.

On Tuesday, Priti Marwah, who was jogging along Chicago’s lakefront, expressed her concern about the thick haze enveloping the area. She described it as “severely bad” and even mentioned being able to smell it.

As an avid runner covering a hundred miles per week, she acknowledged the potential danger it posed, emphasizing that she could feel its impact on her lungs, even just from parking and stepping out of her car.

Shelly Woinowski, a visitor at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, also noticed the haze, noting how it obscured the buildings and created a hazy atmosphere.

The effects of the poor air quality prompted certain daycare centers in the region to keep children indoors for the day. Likewise, a youth sports club modified its activities to incorporate more indoor time, considering the situation.

“As these unsafe conditions continue, the city will continue to provide updates and take swift action to ensure that vulnerable individuals have the resources they need to protect themselves and their families,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement.

According to the Detroit News, the skies in Detroit were heavily clouded, obstructing the view of a flyover by the Michigan National Guard, which was meant to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the air force.

The local weather service in Grand Rapids took to Twitter to advise everyone to limit their time spent outdoors due to the conditions.

The smoke causing these cloudy skies can be attributed to fires in northern Quebec and low-pressure systems over the eastern Great Lakes, as explained by meteorologist Bryan Jackson.

He further stated that if a north wind persists, the smoke will continue to move southward, affecting areas such as southern Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky overnight.

Simultaneously, over 40 million Americans are currently under excessive heat warnings, as a heat dome settles over certain regions of the United States.

ABC News reported that Roswell, New Mexico, has experienced temperatures exceeding 105°F for nine consecutive days, breaking local records. Texas is also grappling with extreme temperatures, leading to record-breaking power grid usage.

According to Climate Central, a non-profit organization, the extreme heatwave has been exacerbated by the warming of Earth’s atmosphere due to the use of fossil fuels.

Their analysis suggests that the likelihood of such a heatwave has increased fivefold as a result. This intense heatwave coincides with the presence of one of the most potent heat domes ever recorded, which occurs when a high-pressure system and warming air trap heat.

In Texas, there has been a surge in heat-related visits to hospital emergency rooms, as reported by Axios. To address this issue, paramedics in San Antonio are piloting a novel approach: they are using a procedure that involves cooling individuals suffering from dangerous heatstroke by placing them in a bag containing packs of iced water during transportation to the hospital, as highlighted by ABC News.

The San Antonio Fire Department has witnessed a 53% rise in heat-related calls in June alone, responding to over 250 incidents compared to the same period last year.

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