Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (2024)

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Jacey Fortin and Christina Morales

Here’s what to know about the heat.

The last full day of spring felt more like deep summer throughout much of the eastern half of the United States on Wednesday, with several cities and states taking precautions to keep residents cool as temperatures soared into the upper 90s for a third consecutive day.

The springtime heat, created by a high pressure system way up in the atmosphere, continued to scorch a vast stretch from the lower Midwest to the northern tip of Maine.

High-temperature records for the day were tied across Maine by midafternoon, with 95 degrees reported in Bangor, Houlton and Millinocket, according to National Weather Service officials in Caribou, where a reading of 96 degrees tied the highest temperature ever recorded there.

In Pittsburgh and other parts of western Pennsylvania, thousands of residents faced the double challenge of sweltering heat and lingering power outages from recent storms. Forecasters warned that the heat index, a measure of how it feels, taking into account both temperature and humidity, could be as high as 110 degrees there.

The Northeast could see cooler temperatures this weekend. But forecasters say the heat and humidity will likely move south, bringing high heat indexes to parts of the South and central Plains early in the week.

Here are the details:

  • More than 78 million people were under extreme heat advisories, watches or warnings, according to the National Weather Service. That is nearly double the population of the state of California.

  • Unexpected hazards: The heat, which will linger through at least the weekend in part of the region, has already caught some cities off guard. In New York City, the public pools are not open yet, but Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that some pools and beaches in other parts of the state will open early. Amtrak warned of possible delays along its service through the east coast of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine because of heat related-speed restrictions.

  • Why it’s hot: The meteorological phenomenon driving the high temperatures is sometimes described as a heat dome. Pressure high in the atmosphere acts like a lid on a pot, keeping the heat from dissipating, said Frank Pereira, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s prediction center.

  • Global warming’s role: In recent years, global warming has been making heat waves hotter, more frequent and longer lasting. Last year was the warmest on record, and global temperatures have continued breaking monthly records this year, too. The Weather Service has warned that this heat wave could be the longest one some places have experienced in decades.

  • Summer warning signs: Heat waves in mid-June are not unprecedented, but the duration of this one suggests that summer could be particularly brutal. And while the temperatures may soon ebb in a few places — including the northern reaches of New England — most people in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions can expect higher-than-usual temperatures at least through the end of this month, Mr. Pereira said.

June 19, 2024, 7:19 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 7:19 p.m. ET

Kevin Williams

Reporting from Ohio

For some in Cincinnati, escaping the heat is not an easy option.

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Some in the Cincinnati area had no choice but to spend much of the day in the scorching heat.

On Wednesday morning, William Daugherty, 60, a safety manager for an engineering company, and his crew were installing an underground pipeline in Middletown, Ohio, to bring more water to a local steel mill from a nearby river.

To combat the heat, he soaked his head with a cold towel, and then wrapped it around his neck. The workers in the ditch, where the air was still, were especially feeling the heat. So Mr. Daugherty set up a shade tent with a blower that had a five-gallon bucket of ice behind it to blow cool air. His crew took plenty of water breaks, he said, and ate several electrolyte Popsicles.

As the heat index — a measure of how it feels, taking into account both temperature and humidity — reached as high as 100 in southwestern Ohio, some residents had to scramble to find alternate places for relief. The Cincinnati Public Library has 40 branches that are doubling as cooling centers this week, but they were closed for the Juneteenth holiday.

In Hamilton, Ohio, air-conditioners were humming at the New Life Mission, which provides those in need with food, social services and, on days like Wednesday, a cool place to escape the heat. A team of volunteers served meals of pork chops, rice and cold drinks to over 100 people who came in.

Chris Adkins, 48, who is unemployed and lives in a tent by the Great Miami River, relished being able to sit in the cool dining room of New Life on Wednesday.

“For me, the heat is worse than cold,” Mr. Adkins said. “You can always build a fire when it’s cold.”

“A lot of places don’t want us around, and it gets very hot in a tent,” he added.

Heat index forecast for Wednesday

Data as of 8:45 a.m. on June 19, 2024. See more detailed maps and charts ›

Caution Feels like 80°-90°

Extreme caution 90°-103°

Danger 103°-125°

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (4)

Fla.

Ga.

S.C.

N.C.

Va.

W.Va.

Md.

Del.

Pa.

N.J.

N.Y.

Mass.

Conn.

Maine

N.H.

Vt.

Ala.

Miss.

La.

Ark.

Texas

N.M.

Ariz.

Calif.

Ore.

Wash.

Idaho

Nev.

Utah

Colo.

Wyo.

Mont.

N.D.

S.D.

Neb.

Kan.

Okla.

Minn.

Iowa.

Mo.

Wis.

Ill.

Ind.

Ohio

Mich.

Ky.

Tenn.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationThe New York Times

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Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (5)

June 19, 2024, 5:37 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 5:37 p.m. ET

Rhianwen Watkins

Reporting from New Hampshire

The intense heat in New Hampshire sent crowds to Wallis Sands State Beach, where Ryan Dennehy, who works at the entry gate, said more people seemed to come on Wednesday than on the Fourth of July. The 500-car parking lot, he said, was full for a chunk of the day. “We actually had to put a sign out that said we can’t take anyone who doesn’t have a reservation because it was just that packed,” Dennehy said.

June 19, 2024, 4:29 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 4:29 p.m. ET

Robert Chiarito

Reporting from Chicago

In Chicago, some brave the outdoors despite sweltering temperatures.

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Scorching temperatures continued to bake Chicago on Wednesday, but that didn’t stop some from spending the day outside.

About 300 cyclists organized by the Streets Calling Bike Club rode through downtown to celebrate Juneteenth. Missy Shields, a 30-year-old tech worker who said this was the first year her company recognized the holiday, drank a lot of fluids for the ride.

“You really need your electrolytes today,” Ms. Shields said.

Despite the stifling temperatures, several cooling centers in the city were closed for the Juneteenth holiday, leaving just one open. The Chicago Public Library, whose branches normally provide relief from the heat for some, was also closed.

But several park district pools and field houses were open, according to Mary May, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Ms. May added that if the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning, the city’s emergency response plan would be activated, forcing the opening of more cooling centers.

As midday temperatures approached 90 degrees, Patricio Cornejo led a group of about 20 tourists on a walking tour of the financial district.

In an effort to stay cool, the group, native Spanish speakers from Spain, Latin America and Mexico, took more water breaks and spent more time inside the lobbies of buildings like the Rookery Building.

Mr. Cornejo, who carried an umbrella for shade, said Wednesday’s tour had not been as hot as others he had led this week. “It’s not so bad but the guests are still complaining,” he said. “We just need to take more breaks.”

Still, several spots in the city appeared emptier than usual, including Rosetta Italian, a popular restaurant in Chicago’s Loop, and Daley Plaza, which typically buzzes with workers on their lunch break.

Jaxx Allen, a 37-year-old paralegal, did not mind sitting outside in the empty plaza.

“After surviving our winters, we live for the summer here,” he said.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (7)

June 19, 2024, 4:27 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 4:27 p.m. ET

kevin williams

Reporting from Cincinnati

Some residents found themselves scrambling to find alternate places to find cooling relief in one of Ohio’s largest cities. In Hamilton County, Ohio, the Cincinnati Public Library has 40 branches spread across the county that are also doubling as cooling centers this week. But the libraries are closed for the Juneteenth holiday.

June 19, 2024, 4:03 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 4:03 p.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

High heat isn’t the only weather news today: Tropical Storm Alberto formed in the Gulf of Mexico this morning, and is likely to make landfall along the northeastern Mexican coastline early Thursday; weather is complicating the fight against a 23,000-acre wildfire in Southern New Mexico; and dozens have died amid intense heat during this year’s hajj pilgrimage.

June 19, 2024, 4:03 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 4:03 p.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

And in Pocatello, Idaho, the temperature dropped to a record low of 31 degrees this morning.

June 19, 2024, 3:27 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 3:27 p.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

High-temperature records for the day were tied across Maine by midafternoon, with 95 degrees reported in Bangor, Houlton and Millinocket, according to National Weather Service officials in Caribou — where a reading of 96 degrees matched the all-time record high for the city.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (11)

June 19, 2024, 3:16 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 3:16 p.m. ET

Sydney Cromwell

Reporting from Maine

Maine now has 69 cooling centers that will be open across the state today and tomorrow, up from 58 this morning.

June 19, 2024, 2:59 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 2:59 p.m. ET

Nadja Popovich and Adam Pearce

You’re not imagining it. Summers are getting hotter.

Extremely hot summers, the kind that were virtually unheard of decades ago, have become increasingly common.

The graphic above, based on an analysis from researchers at Columbia University, shows how, in recent decades, local summer temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have shifted conspicuously toward higher heat.

Not every summer is hotter today; some areas still see average or colder than average seasons from June through August. But the distribution of summer temperatures has shifted so that many more places endure hot summers more often than they did in the past. And the most drastic change has occurred at the hottest extreme.

Less than 1 percent of summers in the middle of the 20th century were extremely hot for their location, according to the analysis, compared with more than a quarter of summers over the last decade.

This summer is again expected to be hotter than average across much of the United States, and in other parts of the world, too.

Globally, each of the past 12 months has been the warmest on record for that month. And 2023 was the hottest year since modern record-keeping began in the mid-1800s.

“Extreme heat is one of the most direct ways in which we are experiencing the impacts of global warming,” said Deepti Singh, who leads the Climate Extremes Lab at Washington State University.

And it’s also one of the clearest signals of how the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are changing the planet’s climate, she added.

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June 19, 2024, 12:57 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 12:57 p.m. ET

Dana G. Smith

Here’s how heat affects the brain.

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In July 2016, a heat wave hit Boston, with daytime temperatures averaging 92 degrees for five days in a row. Some local university students who were staying in town for the summer got lucky and were living in dorms with central air-conditioning. Other students, not so much — they were stuck in older dorms without A.C.

Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, a Harvard researcher at the time, decided to take advantage of this natural experiment to see how heat, and especially heat at night, affected the young adults’ cognitive performance. He had 44 students perform math and self-control tests five days before the temperature rose, every day during the heat wave, and two days after.

“Many of us think that we are immune to heat,” said Dr. Cedeño, now an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and justice at Rutgers University. “So something that I wanted to test was whether that was really true.”

It turns out even young, healthy college students are affected by high temperatures. During the hottest days, the students in the un-air-conditioned dorms, where nighttime temperatures averaged 79 degrees, performed significantly worse on the tests they took every morning than the students with A.C., whose rooms stayed a pleasant 71 degrees.

A heat wave is once again blanketing the Northeast, South and Midwest. High temperatures can have an alarming effect on our bodies, raising the risk for heart attacks, heatstroke and death, particularly among older adults and people with chronic diseases. But heat also takes a toll on our brains, impairing cognition and making us irritable, impulsive and aggressive.

How heat hurts our cognition

Numerous studies in lab settings have produced similar results to Dr. Cedeño’s research, with scores on cognitive tests falling as scientists raised the temperature in the room. One investigation found that just a four-degree increase — which participants described as still feeling comfortable — led to a 10 percent average drop in performance across tests of memory, reaction time and executive functioning.

This can have real consequences. R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at high school standardized test scores and found that they fell 0.2 percent for every degree above 72 Fahrenheit. That might not sound like a lot, but it can add up for students taking an exam in an un-air-conditioned room during a 90-degree heat wave.

In another study, Dr. Park found that the more hotter-than-average days there were during the school year, the worse students did on a standardized test — especially when the thermometer climbed above 80 degrees. He thinks that may be because greater exposure to heat was affecting students’ learning throughout the year.

The effect was “more pronounced for lower income and racial minority students,” Dr. Park said, possibly because they were less likely to have air-conditioning, both at school and at home.

Why heat makes us aggressive

Researchers first discovered the link between heat and aggression by looking at crime data, finding that there are more murders, assaults and episodes of domestic violence on hot days. The connection applies to nonviolent acts, too: When temperatures rise, people are more likely to engage in hate speech online and honk their horns in traffic.

Lab studies back this up. In one 2019 experiment, people acted more spitefully toward others while playing a specially designed video game in a hot room than in a cool one.

So-called reactive aggression tends to be especially sensitive to heat, most likely because people tend to interpret others’ actions as more hostile on hot days, prompting them to respond in kind.

Kimberly Meidenbauer, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University, thinks this increase in reactive aggression may be related to heat’s effect on cognition, particularly the dip in self control. “Your tendency to act without thinking, or not be able to stop yourself from acting a certain way, these things also appear to be affected by heat,” she said.

What’s happening in the brain

Researchers don’t know why heat affects our cognition and emotions, but there are a couple of theories.

One is that the brain’s resources are being diverted to keep you cool, leaving less energy for everything else. “If you’re allocating all of the blood and all the glucose to parts of your brain that are focused on thermoregulation, it seems like it’s very plausible that you just wouldn’t have enough left for some of these kind of higher cognitive functions,” Dr. Meidenbauer said.

You could also be distracted and irritable because of how hot and miserable you feel. It turns out that’s actually one of the brain’s coping responses. If you can’t get cool, your brain will “make you feel even more uncomfortable so that finding the thing you need to survive will become all consuming,” explained Shaun Morrison, a professor of neurological surgery at Oregon Health and Science University.

Heat’s effect on sleep could play a role, too. In the Boston study, the hotter it got, the more students’ sleep was disrupted — and the worse they performed on the tests.

The best way to offset these effects is to cool yourself off, as soon as possible. If you don’t have access to air-conditioning, fans can help, and be sure to stay hydrated. It might sound obvious, but what matters most for your brain, mood and cognition is how hot your body is, not the temperature outside.

June 19, 2024, 12:55 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 12:55 p.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

Feels like summer, but it’s not (officially). Astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere begins at 4:51 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

June 19, 2024, 12:33 p.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 12:33 p.m. ET

Michael Corkery

Crews rush to restore power in Pittsburgh as temperatures soar.

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Thousands of people in the greater Pittsburgh area were without power on Wednesday as the city was set to experience some of the hottest conditions in the United States.

With heat indexes forecast to reach 110 degrees in western Pennsylvania, utility crews from across the state and nearby Ohio and West Virginia scrambled to restore electrical lines that had been toppled by a series of damaging wind and rain storms earlier in the week.

At one point, more than 85,000 people were without power in the area. By Wednesday morning, the reported outages were reduced to about 6,700, according to Duquesne Light Company, which supplies electricity to the region.

In a statement, Duquesne urged customers without power to “consider alternate arrangements to stay cool and safe” and to “avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors,” adding that food will stay frozen for up to 48 hours if the door remains closed. ​

Pittsburgh has opened several cooling centers across the city, and there are more than a dozen other sites in the suburbs. Allegheny County, which includes the Pittsburgh area, is staffing its public pools with additional lifeguards to allow the guards to take more breaks from the heat, said Abigail Gardner, a county spokeswoman.

“We want to make sure they are staying safe as well,” she said.

Even as repair crews continued to make progress restoring power in the area on Wednesday, Duquesne warned of possible delays and additional outages. “With the potential for more storms and heat-related issues this week, the estimated time of restoration could move into next week,” the company said.

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June 19, 2024, 11:54 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 11:54 a.m. ET

Sydney Cromwell

Reporting from Maine

Maine takes precautions for the heat, including changes to a Juneteenth event.

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In Lewiston, Maine, organizers of a Juneteenth celebration on Wednesday made changes to prepare for the heat, including moving events indoors, shortening a parade and providing extra water, as precautions were enacted all over the state amid soaring temperatures.

High-temperature records for the day were tied across Maine by midafternoon, with 95 degrees reported in Bangor, Houlton and Millinocket, according to National Weather Service officials in Caribou, where a reading of 96 degrees tied the highest temperature ever recorded there.

It’s been a few years since Maine has experienced a heat wave this extreme, according to Vanessa Corson, the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s public information officer.

In 2022, the state had a particularly wet summer, which followed a drought the year before. “It’s been this roller coaster every summer, where we’re not sure what to expect,” Ms. Corson said.

Around the state, cooling centers are opening in libraries, town halls, civic centers, Y.M.C.A.s, fire departments and other public buildings to give people a chance to escape the heat.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Maine Emergency Management Agency website listed 69 cooling centers with plans to open at various times Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Rural areas of the state are of particular concern, Ms. Corson said, because the distance some people will have to drive to find a cooling center may deter them. In those cases, she said, people are encouraged to find any air-conditioned building nearby.

In Lewiston, Maine Inside Out, an arts-based nonprofit, hosts an annual Juneteenth festival that includes a parade, art and theater activities and an afternoon block party.

Noah Bragg, one of the co-directors of Maine Inside Out, said the event always employs a safety team, but this year its focus has turned to the heat.

During a walk-through of the event on Tuesday, Bragg said coordinators made the decision to move several scheduled events indoors. They also shortened the parade’s route so participants don’t have to spend as much time walking in the heat.

“We can continue parading in the park where there’s shade rather than the street where there isn’t,” Mr. Bragg said.

He also said the Juneteenth event will have extra water, cooling tents and kiddie pools available, and organizers are publicizing the location and hours of nearby cooling centers.

Mr. Bragg said he wasn’t sure whether the heat would affect turnout to the festival, but he hopes “people make the best choices for themselves.”

Last year’s Juneteenth event was on a rainy day, he said, so coordinators were hoping for better weather this year.

“I hoped we’d have a nice, sunny day,” he said. “We got what we were hoping for, to kind of an extreme.”

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (18)

June 19, 2024, 11:34 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 11:34 a.m. ET

Ray Duckler

Reporting from Concord, N.H.

John Chisholm, chief of the Concord Fire Department, said the Fire Department saw increased calls from seniors asking for help on Tuesday. He added that the current heat wave appears to be unique in its ferocity and aggressiveness.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (19)

June 19, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

Ray Duckler

Michael Clair, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says Concord-area residents should expect more of the same Thursday. In fact, Clair warned, things might heat up a bit.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (20)

June 19, 2024, 11:12 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 11:12 a.m. ET

Robert Chiarito

Reporting from Chicago

While temperatures were expected to exceed 90 degrees for the fourth consecutive day in Chicago, several cooling centers were closed for the Juneteenth holiday on Wednesday, leaving just one open. The Chicago Public Library, whose branches normally provide relief from the heat for some, was also closed.

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Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (21)

June 19, 2024, 11:12 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 11:12 a.m. ET

Robert Chiarito

But several park district pools and field houses were open, according to Mary May, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Ms. May added that if the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning the city’s emergency response plan would be activated, forcing the opening of more cooling centers.

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June 19, 2024, 10:55 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 10:55 a.m. ET

Christina Morales

Amtrak’s Downeaster service — which runs through the east coast of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine — may have delays as long as an hour for the remainder of the week because of heat-related speed restrictions.

June 19, 2024, 10:42 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 10:42 a.m. ET

Michael Corkery

Pittsburgh and parts of western Pennsylvania are facing the double challenge of scorching heat and widespread power outages. More than 8,400 people were without electricity as of Wednesday morning, as forecasters warned of heat indexes reaching up to 110 degrees. The outages were the result of damaging storms earlier this week.

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Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (24)

June 19, 2024, 10:09 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 10:09 a.m. ET

Sydney Cromwell

Reporting from Waterville, Maine

Across Maine, cooling centers are starting to open in libraries, town halls, civic centers, Y.M.C.A.s, fire departments and other public buildings to give people a chance to escape the heat.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (25)

June 19, 2024, 10:36 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 10:36 a.m. ET

Sydney Cromwell

In Lewiston, Maine, changes were made to a Juneteenth celebration because of the heat wave. A parade’s route will be shortened, and several parts of the celebration will now take place indoors, according to a coordinator for the event.

June 19, 2024, 9:59 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 9:59 a.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

The temperature is forecast to hit 96 degrees today in Caribou, Maine, located near the northern tip of the state. That would tie the record there for any day, not just the record for June 19.

The all-time record high at Caribou is 96F. That last occurred Jun 19, 2020 as well as in 1944 and 1977.

We are forecasting 96F at Caribou this afternoon.

— NWS Caribou (@NWSCaribou) June 19, 2024

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June 19, 2024, 9:45 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 9:45 a.m. ET

Alyce McFadden

Most New York City pools are still closed as temperatures soar.

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Outdoor public pools in New York City won’t open until June 27, leaving residents with fewer options to find refuge from this week’s heat wave.

The city’s 53 public outdoor pools are popular destinations in the summer. The pools, which are dotted across all five boroughs and are free to use, were visited more than one million times in 2022, according to city data. But this week, with temperatures expected to climb into the 90s, New Yorkers will have to seek out other destinations to cool off.

Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday that the city would devote $1 billion to improving the city’s network of public pools over the next five years, though the new funding won’t help sweltering residents this year. Eventually, it will cover the costs of building two new indoor pools and renovating existing facilities.

“New York City’s pools and beaches are incredible places for New Yorkers to come together, learn to swim and beat the heat — and as climate change makes heat waves like this week’s more common and more severe, the need for pools has never been greater,” said Mr. Adams in a statement on Tuesday.

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Like cities across the country, New York also faces an ongoing lifeguard shortage. Last year, pools opened when the city had around half the 1,000 lifeguards they usually have on hand, prompting parks officials to close sections of some pools. Now, the city says it is in better shape after it agreed to raise lifeguard wages for the second time in two years, this time to $22 per hour. The city will also offer a $1,000 retention bonus to lifeguards who worked last year and who agree to remain on duty through this year’s peak season.

Indoor swimming pools are open year-round, though there are far fewer of them in the city and most New Yorkers must pay an annual membership fee to use them. Adults 65 and older qualify for a discounted rate, and people 24 and younger can swim for free.

On Tuesday, New Yorkers were already suffering from elevated temperatures as the heat index in parts of the city surpassed 90 degrees. With pools closed, families sought out fountains and shade in parks. Governor Kathy Hochul said admission and parking at New York State Parks would be free on Wednesday and Thursday.

Praise Mkandawire, 28, watched her three children jump through sprinklers and play with water toys at a park in Harlem. Her family recently moved to New York from North Carolina and are used to the heat.

“At least here there’s splash pads close by, so we’re taking advantage,” she said.

Though it might feel as if summer is already in full swing, New York’s outdoor pools aren’t opening any later than they have in recent years. They opened on June 29 last year, and June 28 in 2022.

The increased funding announced Tuesday isn’t set to change when pools open, but Councilman Shekar Krishnan proposed legislation this year that would both open the pools earlier in the year and keep them open longer each day.

“On the most sweltering days in New York City, like what we’re experiencing this week, New Yorkers escape to our public pools and beaches to cool off,” Mr. Krishnan, whose district is in Queens, said in a statement. “But pools are useless, and beaches are dangerous, if they are closed and unstaffed.”

Currently, outdoor pools are set to open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, with an hour for cleaning starting at 3 p.m. Mr. Krishnan’s proposal would require that they open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Camille Baker contributed reporting.

June 19, 2024, 9:21 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 9:21 a.m. ET

Christina Morales

Reporting from New York

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced free admissions for state parks Wednesday and Thursday. Several pools and beaches in the state will also open early on Wednesday to help residents get relief from the heat.

June 19, 2024, 9:10 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 9:10 a.m. ET

Tim Balk

The United States is facing hotter heat waves, but one of the worst was in 1936.

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By the time cool air from Canada’s Hudson Bay arrived to relieve the baking Upper Midwest in July 1936, the United States had sweat through a torrid heat spell that stretched to New York.

“North Winds Halt Hot Wave,” blared an exultant headline on the front page of The Chicago Daily Tribune on July 15, 1936.

The heat wave, which pushed temperatures to 100 degrees in Illinois and 120 degrees as far north as North Dakota, left some 5,000 people dead.

In New York, a high of 106 degrees was recorded in Central Park. Desperate for relief, people slept on roofs and fire escapes and flocked to public pools, which stayed open until midnight. New York City recorded 21 drownings as adults and children who didn’t know how to swim but were desperate to cool off jumped into the water.

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The Dust Bowl, the drought in the Great Plains that was partially caused by agriculture practices, appeared to supercharge the heat wave. Its duration made it especially challenging: Temperatures hit 100 degrees for 12 straight days in Springfield, Ill., according to the National Weather Service.

Altered farming methods and better cooling technology may have staved off repeats of the 1936 heat wave since then. But the United States has had longer and more frequent heat waves in recent decades as the planet warms, according to government data.

In the summer of 2023, a ferocious, sustained heat wave settled over the Southwest. Phoenix logged temperatures of at least 110 degrees for 31 straight days, from June to July, smashing an 18-day modern record the city had set in 1974. Maricopa County, which surrounds Phoenix, reported 404 heat-related deaths in July.

The global air temperature likely was the hottest in modern times, scientists said.

This year, it seems, the United States may be in for another blistering summer.

An early-season heat wave has arrived in the Northeast and Midwest. In Chicago, the temperature hit a record-breaking 97 degrees on Monday. In New York, a high of 96 was forecast for Friday.

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The period could be most punishing for a region stretching along the Ohio River and continuing into upstate New York and New England. Among the cities in the cross hairs were Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

This heat wave could be similar to one in June 1994 that roasted Pittsburgh. That year, the temperature in the city reached 95 degrees for six straight days, a stretch of highs that could be matched or eclipsed this week, according to the local National Weather Service office.

Over the last three decades, concerns have grown about the dangers of extreme heat in urban areas.

In July 1995, a severe heat wave enveloped Chicago, hitting the city’s senior population especially hard. Neighborhoods lost power, hospitals filled up and, one day, the temperature reached a sticky 106 degrees. Morgues filled, and the death toll was later estimated at 739.

Because many of the people who died were older residents living alone, the heat wave served as a “turning point” in how many people think about heat waves, said Ashley Ward, director of the Heat Policy Innovation Hub at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability.

“The social and economic structure of society has a big impact on who dies,” she said.

Another factor influencing the human costs of heat waves: the novelty of extreme heat in regions not used to them.

Three years ago, typically mild Portland, Ore., was caught off-guard when the temperature climbed to 116 degrees. Researchers said that the heat was almost certainly energized by global warming and that there was 0.1 percent chance of such an event in any given year in the region.

One day, the high temperature at Portland International Airport was about 40 degrees warmer than normal. Although the heat wave only lasted a few days, it still had a devastating effect in the Pacific Northwest, where some do not have air-conditioning.

The medical examiner in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, attributed 69 deaths to the record-breaking temperatures. Before 2021, deaths from heat in the county were rare, with none recorded in 2016 or 2018, according to the medical examiner.

Most of the people who died in 2021 lacked air-conditioning, the medical examiner reported.

Portland’s unusual weather fulfilled old predictions that climate change would ultimately intensify heat waves in places where extreme heat was unfamiliar, climate experts said.

The 1936 heat wave may loom large in the history of U.S. heat waves. But J. Marshall Shepherd, the director of the University of Georgia’s atmospheric sciences program, said it should not be held up as an argument against evidence that climate change is now driving more extreme weather.

“Grass grows naturally, too,” he said, comparing grass to heat waves. “But when we fertilize our lawns, it grows differently.”

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June 19, 2024, 8:34 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 8:34 a.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

The Northeast looks especially hot later today. This morning’s forecast maps show heat indexes climbing above 100 degrees in parts of upstate New York, Vermont and Maine.

June 19, 2024, 8:06 a.m. ET

June 19, 2024, 8:06 a.m. ET

John Keefe

Weather Data Editor

Meteorologists at the Weather Prediction Center ended their early-morning forecast post with a glimmer of relief: “Conditions are expected to improve over New England this weekend.”

June 18, 2024, 11:00 a.m. ET

June 18, 2024, 11:00 a.m. ET

Anna Kodé

How to stay cool indoors during the heat wave.

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Summer officially starts on Thursday, and this season is predicted to be hotter than normal — a heat wave across the country this week is expected to affect millions of Americans. In New York, the temperature is forecast to reach 96 degrees by Friday. On Monday, Chicago hit a record-breaking 97 degrees.

More than just uncomfortable, the heat can be dangerous and at worst deadly, and it’s only becoming more of a threat with climate change causing rising temperatures. Prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in excessive heat can cause heatstroke, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Starting Tuesday, cooling centers — indoor, air-conditioned spaces for public use — will be open during the day in New York. The city’s fire department is also turning some fire hydrants into water sprinklers. If you’re staying at home, here’s what you can do to stay as cool as possible indoors, whether you have an AC or not.

What’s the ideal temperature for your home?

While you should do what feels most comfortable for you, Carrier, an air-conditioner manufacturer, suggests on its website that 72 degrees is the generally accepted “comfortable indoor temperature for many people.” It continues, “It strikes a good balance between comfort and energy efficiency, making it a popular choice for residential settings.”

If you’re away from your home, set your thermostat for higher than usual to save energy and to prevent your AC unit from potentially busting. At night, because heat can disrupt sleep, 60 to 67 degrees is recommended by the Cleveland Clinic.

How do you keep your furry friends safe?

It depends on the animal, and its size and type, but pets are generally less tolerant of higher temperatures than humans.

Dogs, the most common pet in the country, tend to overheat when the temperature is between 81 and 85 degrees, according to the American Kennel Club. “An ideal temperature doesn’t exist for all dogs, since their normal body temperature will vary according to size,” the organization states on its website. It also suggests installing a temperature alarm that can notify your phone if your AC fails and you’re not at home to notice.

How do you maintain your AC?

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If your AC is broken, it might be too late to find a repairman to fix it in time for the heat wave, but going forward, experts recommend servicing your AC unit once a year. A technician will typically check for and diagnose issues with the system, clean it and change out the filter.

Depending on your unit, you may be able to change your filter yourself. Carrier suggests inspecting your filter every two to three months, and certain factors might affect how often you’ll need to change it. (For example, if you have a pet, you may need to replace the filter more frequently because of its shedding.) You can look for an online guide on how to change the filter — whether it is for a window unit, floor-mounted or other. Just make sure to turn your system off first.

What can you do if you don’t have an AC?

You can close your blinds or cover your windows to minimize your exposure to direct sunlight. Stick-on solar film, which can be bought online or at home-improvement stores, is also an option. This can deflect infrared heat that would otherwise come in through your windows.

While fans don’t cool the air, the breeze they create can have a cooling effect. Wirecutter has a guide to room fans in varying sizes. Make sure your ceiling fans are running counterclockwise, so that air is pushed downward.

If you’re able to obtain it in time, Wirecutter also suggests this portable AC.

What are some things to avoid indoors?

Steer clear of using appliances that generate heat, such as an oven, clothes dryer, iron or blow dryer. New York Times Cooking has a list of “No-Cook Recipes for a Heat Wave” so you can prep a meal without turning on your stove top.

Try to avoid dark fabrics for curtains, upholstery or clothing, as they can absorb heat more easily. You can also turn off lights — having too many on close together can heat the surrounding air.

Avoid thick covers and blankets. Percale sheets tend to be more breathable, and Wirecutter has a guide for bedsheets for hot sleepers.

Can I report my landlord if my apartment is unreasonably hot?

While some cities, like Dallas, have air-conditioning requirements for rental apartments, New York City does not. (Landlords in New York are legally obligated to provide heat and hot water.) But if you live in an apartment that had an AC when you moved in, landlords are responsible for maintaining it and replacing it if it’s broken.

If they refuse to fix it or are unresponsive, you have options. Ronda Kaysen, a real estate reporter and former “Ask Real Estate” columnist, suggests paying to replace the AC unit yourself if you can then negotiate your rent, asking for the same amount for the upcoming year. You could also take your landlord to court, but that could be more time-consuming and expensive than paying to fix it yourself.

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Sept. 1, 2022, 5:18 p.m. ET

Sept. 1, 2022, 5:18 p.m. ET

Isabella Grullón Paz and Camille Baker

A short guide to understanding heat domes.

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Hearing a “heat dome” is in the forecast might spur feelings of dread. But how does a heat dome actually work?

Here’s what to know about the weather phenomenon.

What is a heat dome?

A heat dome is a high pressure system way up in the atmosphere that helps create and encase heat, kind of like a lid on a pot that holds in steam.

Heat domes “on the order of 1,000 miles across” can form under high pressure weather systems, said Hosmay Lopez, an oceanographer and expert on extreme heat and climate change with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They become anchored in place, building up heat, sometimes for weeks at a time.

The term “heat wave” describes a rise in temperature in the weather pattern, and the term “heat dome” refers to a high pressure system that traps heat. The terms are often used interchangeably.

How do heat domes form?

When a high pressure system moves into an area, it pushes warm air toward the ground. With the sinking air acting like a cap, the warm air can’t easily escape, and it continues to heat up the more it is compressed.

“You can actually repeat this process on a small scale,” said Greg Carbin, forecast operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. “When you’re inflating a flat tire, as the air goes in and the pressure builds, the molecules move faster, they are closer together, and they heat up.”

This high atmospheric pressure is linked to the configuration of the jet streams, bands of speedy winds that form high in the atmosphere in areas where cold air and hot air meet. The jet streams tend to be narrow, wavy corridors of air that move west to east and migrate north to south. Sometimes jet streams can expand, becoming slower, or even stagnant, and heavier.

Can heat domes happen anywhere?

Yes, they can, but areas that are farther from water, have flatter topography and are south of where jet streams migrate in the summer are more prone to oppressive heat domes. In the United States, that area is the Central Plains.

The heat domes that have covered the Pacific Northwest in recent years still baffle meteorologists, Mr. Carbin said, because the mountainous topography of the region is the opposite of what is usually conducive to heat domes.

Heat domes are associated with climate change. In the 1970s, there was one heat wave for every cold wave. As climate change accelerates, “that ratio is more than two to one, and for some places, it’s three to one,” Dr. Lopez said.

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Are heat domes dangerous?

Yes. Heat stress is the most common cause of weather-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Because heat domes are associated with stagnating air, they can also lead to reduced air quality, dryness and a greater chance of fire. “Those stains are very detrimental for human health, especially for the elderly and people with preconditions like cardiopulmonary illnesses,” Dr. Lopez said.

Read about staying safe in a heat wave here.

Heat Wave Stifles Much of Eastern U.S. for 3rd Consecutive Day (2024)

FAQs

How many days in a row is considered a heat wave? ›

A definition based on the Heat Wave Duration Index is that a heat wave occurs when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5 °C (9 °F), the normal period being 1961–1990.

When was the worst heat wave in the US? ›

The "Dust Bowl" years of 1930-36 brought some of the hottest summers on record to the United States, especially across the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lake States.

What people are most at risk during a heat wave? ›

Older adults, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

How long does a heat wave last? ›

Heat Safety Resources

A heat wave is a period of abnormally hot weather generally lasting more than two days. Heat waves can occur with or without high humidity. They have potential to cover a large area, exposing a high number of people to hazardous heat.

Should I stay in during heat wave? ›

Take Steps to Stay Cool

If your area is experiencing extreme heat, stay in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible, especially during the warmest parts of the day, typically 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PDF). And don't underestimate how hot it can get indoors without AC.

Will 2024 be hotter than 2023? ›

The current heat “is much more expected than the shattering of records by 0.3 degrees to 0.5 degrees we saw in the latter half of 2023,” Hausfather told CNN. Hausfather estimates a 66% chance that 2024 will be the hottest year on record, and a 99% chance it will be the second hottest.

What state had the hottest day ever? ›

California. Death Valley's Greenland Ranch holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded at 134 degrees in 1913.

Is summer of 2024 going to be hot? ›

For its 2024 summer outlook, the almanac states that California will see hot and dry conditions. The almanac forecasts that it will likely be “warm, hot, and muggy” for most of the country. In the Northwest region, as “more seasonable summer temperatures are expected,” it said.

What medical conditions require air conditioning? ›

Chronic Conditions That Can't Take the Heat
  • Arthritis. You may have heard people with arthritis claim they can predict the weather by their joint pain. ...
  • Autoimmune Conditions. ...
  • Fibromyalgia. ...
  • Migraines. ...
  • Multiple Sclerosis. ...
  • Respiratory Illnesses. ...
  • Rosacea.
Jun 22, 2022

What are the first signs of heat exhaustion? ›

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Irritability.
  • Thirst.
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Elevated body temperature.

What sickness is due to heat wave? ›

Heat exhaustion is a condition that happens when your body overheats. Symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. Heat exhaustion is one of three heat-related illnesses, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most serious.

What temperature is considered a heat wave? ›

Heat wave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions. c) If above criteria met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological sub-division for at least two consecutive days and it declared on the second day.

What happens to your body during a heat wave? ›

The strain put on the body as it tries to cool itself also stresses the heart and kidneys. As a result, heat extremes can worsen health risks from chronic conditions (cardiovascular, mental, respiratory and diabetes related conditions) and cause acute kidney injury.

What is the highest heat wave ever recorded? ›

The hottest temperature ever officially recorded on Earth was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 in Death Valley, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 130 F (54.4 C), recorded there in July 2021. “It's impressive,” Thomas Mrzliek of Basel, Switzerland, said of the triple digit heat.

What is considered a heatwave? ›

Heatwave definition

A heatwave is when the maximum and minimum temperatures are unusually hot over 3 days. This is compared to the local climate and past weather. It takes more than a high daily maximum temperature to make a heatwave. It's also about how much it cools down overnight.

How frequent are heat waves? ›

Key Points. Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States. Their frequency has increased steadily, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s and 2020s (Figure 1).

How long does it take to recover from a heat wave? ›

It can take a couple of days for you to completely recover. Follow these tips for recovery after hot weather or extreme heat: Continue to drink plenty of water so your body can get back on track. Open doors and windows to let cool air though your home.

What are heat danger days? ›

Meteorologists define the heat index, or danger days, as heat and humidity combining to create real feel temperatures above 105 °F or 40°C.

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