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Climate

6 Climate Predictions for Our Blazing Hot Summer

Yes, it will be hot. But we might learn a thing or two, too.

A farmworker, ticks, and a container ship.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot.

That’s the message you’ll be seeing all over as the Northern Hemisphere formally begins what is sure to be a scorcher of a summer. But although June 21 is technically the estival solstice, many places across the globe have already been feeling the heat, with parts of Asia, Puerto Rico, India, and Texas all having faced dangerous temperatures this spring. Yet July and August — the hottest months of the year — still lie ahead.

Hotter-than-normal temperatures are only a part of the story, though. Here are six climate-related predictions for summer 2023.

1. Atlantic hurricane season will be bad.

Here’s something you don’t hear every day: Bret is remarkable.

Tropical Storm Bret, that is. Not only is the system one of the earliest named storms on record, but it has also formed farther east than any tropical storm this early in the year. And Bret isn’t alone: There is reportedly a second storm developing on its heels — a would-be Cindy.

Though climate change doesn’t increase the frequency of hurricanes, warmer oceans, high sea levels, and increased atmospheric moisture do mean the ones that form tend to be more intense, slow, and destructive. And currently, “the waters in the Atlantic are as warm as they would typically be at the peak of hurricane season two to three months from now,” The Washington Post reports. On Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center walked back its prediction that Bret would strengthen into a hurricane, though the fact that it was even considered a possibility this early in the season was stunning; as the Post adds, on average, the first Atlantic hurricane “doesn’t form until August 11.”

Early season NOAA forecasts anticipate a near-average Atlantic hurricane season, but the unusually warm ocean combined with uncertain models has some scientists wondering if predictions of 12-17 named storms might actually be on the low side.

2. We’ll figure out better ways to cool ourselves.

I didn’t grow up with air conditioning and my husband handles our household electricity bill, which means I’ve basically gone my entire adult life without thinking twice about cranking up the air conditioning when it starts to get hot. But as more and more Americans become climate- and energy-conscious — and the downsides of traditional AC units, including the potential for grid collapses when everyone is running theirs full blast, become more widely understood — alternative ways of keeping cool are starting to take off.

The most obvious example of this is the rise of heat pumps, which are much more energy efficient than central AC and window AC units. But there are other ways Americans can turn down their AC usage, including falling back on fans, strategically closing shades and windows, reducing ambitious cooking projects during heat waves, drinking ice slushies, and focusing on cooling primary rooms rather than the whole house. Getting out of the home during the peak of the heat and into a movie theater or swimming pool are tried-and-true strategies, too.

3. Cases of tick-borne illnesses could jump.

I wait all year for it to be nice enough to enjoy camping and hiking outdoors — but humans aren’t the only ones out enjoying the warm weather. Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise as the vectors’ ranges expand and their active seasons get longer due to our extended summers. As of this April, experts were predicting 2023 was going to be an “above average” year for tick activity and abundance; as of June, some are now warning it might be the worst tick year ever.

More ticks biting humans means more humans getting sick from diseases like Lyme, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis, all of which have the potential to be life-threatening. Concern about these diseases is so high that Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey recently signed a bipartisan law requiring K-12 students to learn about tick diseases and prevention as part of their school health curriculum.

And don’t get me started on the mosquitoes

4. There could be new labor movements related to outdoor work in the heat.

Heat is the deadliest weather phenomenon in the United States, but there are no federal protections for how outdoor laborers should be treated during extreme temperature events. This leaves the decision up to individual states — and in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has signed a law removing the guarantee to construction workers of 10-minute breaks for drinking water and shaded rest.

The Biden administration has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write rules federally protecting employees from the heat, but The Washington Post notes that “it can take an average of seven years to write new safety standards.” Still, increasing outcry — and increasing triple-digit days — might intensify pressure on leaders to write new labor laws sooner.

Other parts of the world are already scrambling to find solutions to help outdoor workers. Bloomberg recently described a special program for self-employed women in India to “buy insurance against peak daily temperatures and receive payouts whenever heat makes it impossible to work outdoors.” Similar struggles and solutions might appear elsewhere as heat this summer likely breaks records.

5. We could get better at talking about — and responding to — degraded air quality.

The recent smoke event on the East Coast was an early-season reminder that we really don’t know much about wildfire-related air pollution. But though the skies have been clear recently, the fires in Canada are still burning, which means that a “summer of smoke” in New York is still very much a possibility. Meanwhile, the West Coast is holding its breath to see how severe its fire season — which typically arrives in the late summer — will be this year.

Leaders have historically struggled with how to address wildfire smoke events since there is no firm point when the air quality goes from “healthy” to “dangerous,” despite the common labels. Major League Baseball, for instance, contends — with increasing frequency — with wildfire smoke during its season, although it doesn’t have clear-cut guidelines for when to postpone or relocate games.

More wildfires this summer could additionally encourage further research into understanding how smoke affects the body, which could help down the line with writing tighter guidelines for things like school recesses and outdoor work.

6. The planet could break the heat record.

For many years, the hottest recorded temperature on Earth was a reading of 134 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, set in the year 1913. That record was recently discounted by the World Meteorological Organization due to suspicious discrepancies, meaning that when Death Valley hit 130 degrees back 2021, it set the new record for the hottest recorded temperature in global history — having beaten the previous reliable record of 129.9 set the year prior.

And the world is only getting hotter. The last eight years have been the warmest on record and the confirmed development of an El Niño means the world could face further record-breaking temperatures this year. The single hottest year on record, 2016, was also an El Niño year, and as Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, told Reuters back in April, an El Niño this year means there is “a good chance 2023 will be even hotter than 2016 — considering the world has continued to warm as humans continue to burn fossil fuels.”

Whatever heat records we set in 2023, though, aren’t likely to be followed by much relief. Enjoy this summer while it lasts — by all accounts, the summer of 2024 will be even worse.

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Green
Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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