Extreme Heat and Climate Change

Washington summers are getting longer, hotter and potentially more dangerous. According to climate scientists, the number of very hot days and extreme heat events will increase across the state, though by how much varies depending on location and future greenhouse gas emissions.¹

More high heat events will likely increase rates of heat-related illnesses, death, and emergency room visits. A study in King County found that from 1990 to 2010, heat-related hospital admissions were 2% higher and deaths 10% higher during extreme heat events than the average for that period, with an increased demand for emergency medical services for children, outdoor workers, and older adults.²

Although preventable, anyone can get ill from extreme heat, and outdoor workers, young children, older adults, people experiencing poverty, and people with chronic diseases are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of heat events.³ The best way to prevent heat related illnesses and death is to follow hot weather safety precautions.

Without immediate action to halt and reverse greenhouse gas emissions, by roughly 2050 a “normal” year in Washington will be warmer than the hottest year during the 20th century.4 We can all take steps to reduce the severity of climate change effects. Find out what you can do.


¹ Snover, A.K, G.S. Mauger, L.C. Whitely Binder, M. Krosby, and I. Tohver. 2013. Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Washington State: Technical Summaries for Decision Makers. State of Knowledge Report prepared for the Washington State Department of Ecology. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle. P. 12-3 https://cig.uw.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/12/snoveretalsok2013sec12.pdf

² May, C., C. Luce, J. Casola, M. Chang, J. Cuhaciyan, M. Dalton, S. Lowe, G. Morishima, P. Mote, A. Petersen, G. Roesch-McNally, and E. York, 2018: Northwest. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 1036–1100. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH24

³ https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/extreme-heat-guidebook.pdf

4 Snover, A.K., C.L. Raymond, H.A. Roop, H. Morgan, 2019. No Time to Waste. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and Implications for Washington State. Briefing paper prepared by the Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle. Updated 02/2019. https://cig.uw.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/02/NoTimeToWaste_CIG_Feb2019.pdf