by guest blogger Matt Milosevich, meteorologist for WLKY
Summer kicks off with Memorial Day, a time for celebration and also a season when soaring temperatures and increasing humidity can really take a toll on our bodies. Along those lines, May 27th marked National Heat Awareness Day, which brought attention to what is on average the greatest weather-related killer in the US.
The world is going through an unprecedented period of warming, with the warmest 10 years on record all occurring within just the last 12 years. While climate change and the solutions to reverse it can seem overwhelming, there are easy steps we can take to bring about change to our local communities and to keep ourselves safe when the weather is at its hottest.
Urban heat island, a phrase that refers to the warmer temperatures that are found primarily in city centers, is becoming a frequent topic in our area, because Louisville has one of the fastest warming urban environments in the country. This is due to more heat-absorbing pavement and rooftops and fewer trees and planted areas that help to keep surrounding areas cooler. Temperatures in urban locations can frequently be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas. This creates a vicious cycle of poor health due to heat-related illness and breathing issues, as more people are exposed to higher temperatures. More pollution is created to provide the electricity to cool indoor areas and more pollution contributes to poor air quality as well as a warmer climate.
So what can we do?
At the community level, planting trees is at the top of the list to fight the effects of an urban heat island. Shaded areas can lower temperatures by 10 to as much as 40 degrees, depending on the surface being shaded. If you are thinking your yard could use another tree, make sure to research and ask for help. Picking a tree that thrives in our region and proper placement of that tree will go a long way to decades of cooler shade in the future.
Consider lighter colored roofing shingles next time you replace your roof – remember darker colors absorb more heat than lighter colors. The switch will also save you money on your electricity bill.
While enjoying the outdoors, be sure to take the proper precautions to keep you, your friends and family safe in the heat.
- Lighter colored clothing can go a long way in your own personal heat safety. Pick light colored, loose-fitted clothing if you are going to be out in high temperatures.
- Drink plenty of water, before, during and after activity.
- Be aware of the signs of heat stroke. A body temperature in excess of 104, confusion, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting and rapid breathing are all indications of a medical emergency. If you believe you or someone you are with is suffering from heat stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Most importantly, listen to your body. If you are starting to feel tired and worn down, it is time to head indoors and relax.
Matt Milosevich is a meteorologist for WLKY. From tornadoes to hurricanes, snow storms to floods, he has covered almost every type of weather event during his career. Matt, a long-time member of The Nature Conservancy, loves the outdoors and is always looking for ways to spend time with his family in nature.