2020 John Muir Fellow, Helene Margolis, Comments on the Recent Heatwave Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

08.20.20

By Tony Barboza, Louis Sahagun, Joseph Serna for the LA Times.

So far in the 2000s in the United States, on average there are two daily record high maximum temperatures for every one daily record low minimum temperature, said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“This means with global warming, we experience more extreme heat, and this can be seen in the California heat wave,” he said. “As average temperatures continue to warm, we’ll see even more record high maximum temperatures and extreme heat.”

But the characteristics of this heat wave that are of greatest concern when it comes to human health are its long duration, high humidity and lack of nighttime cooling, said Helene Margolis, an associate professor of medicine at UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine.

“That means the built environment, such as homes, buildings and the street itself, are not able to let the heat go,” Margolis said. “So you have this cumulative heat gain over multiple days. And the entire environment becomes hotter and hotter, amplifying the risk. Because people basically can’t cool off.”

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