Record-breaking heatwave in US

A Desert Water Agency worker is sprayed to cool him down in Palm Springs, California. Photo:...
A Desert Water Agency worker is sprayed to cool him down in Palm Springs, California. Photo: Reuters

Some 100 million Americans from New York City to Las Vegas are under heat warnings this week as temperatures rise well above 38degC, part of a trend of extreme weather made worse by climate change.

New York City temperatures are expected to reach 37degC and temperatures are also expected to break daily records across Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, the National Weather Service (NWS) said on Wednesday.

An NWS advisory for Dallas, Texas, where the high temperature was forecast to reach 44.4degC, cautioned against strenuous activity in peak heat hours and reminded people to stay hydrated.

New York Salvation Army captain and pastor Jack Tripari has been helping people affected by the heat wave. On Wednesday he ushered a woman into a Salvation Army centre for water and a moment of cool air.

“I do believe that there aren't enough people who know about the service so they might be missing out on receiving the help that we can provide during this extreme weather,” he said.

The Brooklyn Bay Ridge Salvation Army cooling centre is one of many Salvation Army centre across the country. It operated just a few days in June but this time it's expected to stay open at least until the end of the week, Tripari said.

Sweat dripped from 32-year-old Mako Arroyo's face as he collected garbage from a New York City sidewalk on Wednesday. The Clean Space sanitation worker said he pops inside businesses to cool off occasionally along his one-mile route.

"There's nothing else you can do but to stay hydrated. Luckily, on each block there's a store," Arroyo said.

Rose Cowles Fussell's family in Glenmora, Louisiana installed an air conditioner in the dog house for their 15-year-old American bulldog named Boston. They've been freezing milk jugs full of water to toss in the swimming pool. But on Wednesday they decided to retreat in hopes of finding cooler climates.

"We're out of here," Cowles Fussell told Reuters.

She packed up the car, her husband and two teenagers and the dog and headed on a trip of 1200km to Fernandina Beach in the Jacksonville, Florida area.

Air pollution presents yet another health risk in the heat. Pollution from the electric grid can more than double when power stations run full tilt to keep air conditioners running.

In New England, carbon dioxide production soared to 123 metric tons per hour just before 8pm (local time) on Tuesday. That was more than double the hourly rate earlier in the day of just 58 metric tons, according to estimates by ISO New England, the grid operator for the six-state region.

The US heat wave follows conditions in Europe this week that have touched off wildfires and set record temperatures in the kind of weather event that scientists say will become more frequent with climate change.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a modest package of executive actions addressing climate change that included new funding for cooling centres and pushing for new off-shore wind projects in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

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