By Mary O’KEEFE
There are very few times the majority of the world’s population can agree on anything and lately that point of agreement is “It is hot.”
In our area we are looking at highs that are about 10 degrees over normal for this time of year.
“In Burbank [one of the NOAA weather stations] a normal high temperature is 87 degrees [Fahrenheit] and low of 65,” said Robbie Munroe, NOAA meteorologist in Oxnard.
Our temperatures will be, for the foreseeable future, a high in the mid-to-upper 90s and lows in the low-to-mid 70s. We are not alone in experiencing the heat – most of Italy is facing temperatures in the low 100s. There have been high temperatures in areas in Greece that have been accompanied by winds that have fueled fires. In China and the Middle East, the heat index, or “feels like” temperature, is life-threatening.
China recently set a record of about 126 degrees. The Middle East heat index reached 152 degrees.
Back in the states, our own Death Valley had a high of 128 degrees and, in typical American style, the event was celebrated by many with a trip to the Furnace Creek Visitors’ Center to take a selfie next to the temperature gauge reading “128.” Furnace Creek has recorded the hottest temperature on Earth; the official record was 130 degrees set in July 2021, according to the National Weather Service. But the actual record may have been set, according to some reports, on July 10, 1913 when the area record was 134 degrees.
Our neighboring state of Arizona is breaking records as well. In Phoenix the low on Monday was 95 degrees – yep, that was the low – that broke the record of the low of 93 degrees set in 2003. By Tuesday, with a temp of 117 degrees, another Phoenix record was set as being the 19th day in a row at or over 110 degrees.
All of this reminds me once again of Twilight Zone and the episode “The Midnight Sun,” which I have mentioned in an earlier article but I think is important to revisit.
The story, written by Rod Serling, deals with an Earth that is moving closer to the Sun causing temperatures to rise. In addition there is never a break in the rising temperatures, never a time of cooling. This affects everything including accessibility of electricity and when people do get some power back they find that fans no longer work because they just blow hot air onto sweltering bodies. The episode makes it clear that heat does not discriminate but affects everyone. What I find interesting with this episode is the lack of any optimism. Even in the Twilight Zone episode “Two,” which dealt with only two humans surviving an apocalyptic battle, there was a feeling that Earth and humans would survive; however, in “The Midnight Sun” there is no such optimism. As always I advise anyone who have not seen this, or those who may not have seen “The Midnight Sun” in a while, to revisit it. In just 26 minutes the actors, directors, writers and crew brought so much reality to the audience that I had to turn on a fan. There was the constant sweat glistening on the shoulders and faces of the actors that helped us relate to the uncomfortable heat. The weight of all those high temperatures comes straight through the small screen.
Now Serling didn’t specifically write this about climate change but he did capture what the Earth is facing now: this is not a passing weather pattern, this is our life. The Earth is warming. June was the warmest on record and meteorologists have said the first two weeks of July have been the hottest since the 1940s. The water temperatures are rising as well with ocean temperatures near Florida and the Caribbean reaching the 90s last week. This poses a threat to coral reefs and marine life.
And although it is hot and climate change is a real thing, unlike “The Midnight Sun” there is cause for some optimism. People seem to be agreeing there is a problem, that human-caused climate change does actually exist and that we need to do something about it.
In a recent Pew Research Center survey, about seven-in-10 Americans (69%) favor the U.S. taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050. That same percentage, 69%, says that the U.S. should prioritize developing renewable energy sources over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. (Carbon neutrality means releasing no more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than is removed.)
“Overall, a majority of U.S. adults [54%] describe climate change as a major threat to the country’s well-being. This share is down slightly from 2020 but remains higher than in the early 2010s,” according to Pew Research.
But back to the Twilight Zone – spoiler alert – in the end of “The Midnight Sun” Norma, portrayed by Lois Nettleton, was suffering from a high fever. It is then revealed that the Earth is really not suffering from excessive heat but excessive cold as it moves farther from the Sun.
In his brilliance Mr. Serling showed us over six decades ago the extreme weather that the world is now facing.
This week (and models show for the next three to four weeks) we will be facing above normal temperatures. This is due to climate change and an El Niño off our coast, which in the winter can bring more rains and in the summer more heat. Although there does not seem to be any rain in the future, there is a slight possibility of monsoonal conditions bringing some rain to the mountain and desert areas.