Heat waves and ice

August 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm | In health | Comments Off on Heat waves and ice

While the temperatures in my part of the world have plummeted (again), returning us to our usual sweater-weather-on-August-nights, world temperatures overall continue to rise. Here’s a map that shows “global land temperature anomalies for July 2010 from average July temperatures of 1951-1980 – Above-average temps are in red; below-average temps are in blue, while gray areas indicate insufficient data. Image courtesy of NASA-GISS.” Via Mongabay:


As you can see, “my” part of the world (west coast of North America, particularly the Pacific Northwest) is nicely fanned by a cool light blue. Some other parts of the globe are burning up, however (see the dark red/brown/orange).

Folks sweltering in the Northeast should console themselves: the summer highs are barely registering “salmon” (the color). Does that mean it’s not really hot, and that it could be worse?

Nope, it’s hot, but now imagine that it’s 1896 and you’re sitting in a NYC tenement while a killer heat wave strikes the city.

We’re mesmerized by spectacular disasters and think they have to happen with a bang (see my post from yesterday), but then there are the silent (and unattractive) killers that move slowly. In “Hot Time in the Old Town”: New York City’s Deadly Heat Wave of 1896 Edward Kohn describes a ten-day heat wave that descended on New York in 1896. Haven’t read the book (would love to, however), but here’s a point that struck me: in an attempt to alleviate suffering and to save lives, Theodore Roosevelt made the decision to distribute ice to the tenements, a move that Kohn identifies as a first stitch to weave a social net that eventually grew to encompass many more entitlements.

Ice. Imagine that. Not a program, not something in writing. But something as tangible (if impermanent) as ice…

See The Takeaway for an excerpt, and find the book on Amazon here.

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