CLIMATE CHANGE AND REal Estate
The improved environment is used to very hot temperatures to very cold temperatures. We design buildings that way. However, they have never been designed for the extremes in weather and the lack of water that we are currently experiencing due to decades of miss management, denial and simply political pandering for one extra vote. We are approximately five-days away from the start of the summer season 2021 and already there is significant stress in the West in the Southwest of the country were temperatures or exceeding 100° on a daily basis. The heat is simply melting asphalt, road plastics, and making daily living almost unbearable, especially for the last while off.
This will be a series of articles over the next three-months highlighting the issues that we are facing and hopefully some of the solutions that we may have to swallowed the pill pill of decades of a lack of management.
First article is simply an introduction into what's going on today in various parts of the country. It's not a reflection of real estate per se, but a simple introduction. It's from "hoax" to todays reality.
Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins
Global warming has been fueling disasters in the region for years. Now, an early heat wave and severe drought are threatening lives and leaving water in perilously short supply.
By Brad Plumer, Jack Healy, Winston Choi-Schagrin and Henry Fountain June 17, 2021 New York Times
A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.
At Lake Mead, which supplies water for 25 million people in three southwestern states and Mexico, water levels have plunged to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In California, farmers are abandoning their thirstiest crops to save others, and communities are debating whether to ration tap water.
In Texas, electricity grids are under strain as residents crank their air-conditioners, with utilities begging customers to turn off appliances to help avert blackouts. In Arizona, Montana and Utah, wildfires are blazing.
And it’s not even summer yet.
“We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
Global warming, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has been heating up and drying out the American West for years. Now the region is broiling under a combination of a drought that is the worst in two decades and a record-breaking heat wave.
“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”
With temperatures expected to keep rising as nations struggle to rein in their planet-warming emissions, the Western United States will need to take difficult and costly measures to adapt. That includes redesigning cities to endure punishing heat, conserving water, and engineering grids that don’t fail during extreme weather.
This month has offered glimpses of whether states and cities are up to that task and has shown they still have far to go.
From Montana to Southern California, much of the West is suffering from unusually high temperatures. Some 50 million Americans face heat-related warnings. Records have been tied or broken in places like Palm Springs, Salt Lake City and Billings, Montana.
As 115-degree temperatures cooked Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row Arts District on Tuesday, Timothy Medina, 58, was perched on a black metal platform 12 feet above the sidewalk, finishing the blue lettering of a sign for a coffee shop. “It’s brutal — that heat against the wall,” he said. “Let me take a quick swig of water.”
Construction workers, landscapers and outdoor painters like Mr. Medina have few options but to bear the heat. He wore jeans to avoid burning his skin, along with a long sleeve fluorescent yellow shirt and a $2 woven hat. But soon the heat was winning.
“I start feeling out of breath, fatigued,” he said.
Extreme heat is the clearest signal of global warming, and the most deadly. Last year heat killed at least 323 people in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, a record by far.
Outdoor workers are particularly at risk, along with older people and anyone without adequate shelter or access to air conditioning.
Across the country, heat waves are becoming more frequent, lasting longer and occurring earlier in the year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Severe heat early in the spring can be especially dangerous because it catches people off guard, experts say.
Cities like Phoenix are struggling to keep up. While the city runs air-conditioned cooling centers, many were shut down last year amid the pandemic. And ensuring that the centers are accessible to everyone is a challenge.
Kayla and Richard Contreras, who sleep in a blue tent on a baking sidewalk in a homeless encampment near downtown Phoenix, said the cooling centers were not an option because they have a dog and they worried about leaving their belongings unattended in their tent.
They said they knew 10 homeless people who died in the heat last year.
Mr. Contreras, 47, fills water bottles from the spigots of homes he walks by. Ms. Contreras, 56, said she saves food stamps to buy popsicles on the hottest days. “This is what keeps us alive,” she said, as she handed an orange popsicle to a friend. “I feel like I’m in Hell.”
Sundown brings no relief. In Las Vegas, where the National Hockey League playoffs are taking place, forecasters expected the mercury to push past 100 degrees when the puck dropped Wednesday evening.
Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved $2.8 million in new climate spending, including creating a four-person Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.
“That’s a good start, but we’re clearly not doing enough yet,” said David Hondula, an Arizona State University scientist who studies heat’s consequences. Drastically reducing heat deaths would require adding trees and shade in underserved neighborhoods and increasing funding to help residents who need help with energy bills or who lack air conditioning, among other things, he said.
“Every one of these heat deaths should be preventable,” he said. “But it’s not just an engineering problem. It means tackling tough issues like poverty or homelessness. And the numbers suggest we’re moving in the wrong direction. Right now, heat deaths are increasing faster than population growth and aging.”
Severe heat waves also pose a challenge for power grids, particularly if operators don’t plan for them. Rising temperatures can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars.
This week, the Texas power grid was stretched near its limit as electricity demand set a June record just as several power plants were offline for repairs. Grid operators asked Texans to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees to conserve power.
Victor Puente, 47, stood on Tuesday under the shade of the porch on his blue wooden home in Pueblo de Palmas, outside the border city of McAllen, Texas. He said he tries to shut off his air-conditioner during the day to conserve energy, so that it might be available for sleeping.
“The last thing we need is to lose electricity for long stretches,” he said.
In California, where temperatures have hit 110 degrees, the grid operator has warned it may face challenges this summer in part because droughts have reduced the capacity of the state’s hydroelectric dams.
Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, noted that strains on the grid illustrate the nonlinear effects of climate change. “Most people might not notice that it’s getting a bit hotter each year,” he said. “But then the temperature reaches a certain threshold and all of the sudden the grid goes down. There are a whole bunch of these thresholds built into our infrastructure.”
This spring, the American West has been in the grips of a severe drought that has been more widespread than at any point in at least 20 years, stretching from the Pacific Coast, across the Great Basin and desert Southwest, and up through the Rockies to the Northern Plains.
Droughts have long been a feature of the West. But global warming is making things worse, with rising temperatures drying out soils and depleting mountain snowpack that normally supply water during the spring and summer. Those parched soils, in turn, are amplifying this week’s heat wave, creating a blast more severe than it otherwise would be.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Dr. Swain of U.C.L.A.
Dry conditions also suggest a potentially devastating fire season, coming a year after California, Oregon and Colorado saw unusually destructive blazes.
The drought has strained water supplies throughout the West, shriveling reservoirs. In one California lake, the water became so shallow that officials identified the wreckage of a plane that had crashed into the lake in 1986.
The Inverness Public Utility District in Marin County, California, will vote next week on whether to impose rationing for 1,100 customers, assigning each household a set amount of water. It would be a first for the town, which last July asked residents to stop washing cars and filling swimming pools.
The drought has forced farmers to take drastic measures. Sheep and cattle ranchers are selling this year’s stock months early, and some dairy farmers are selling their cows rather than come up with 50 gallons of water each animal needs per day. Farmers are planting fractions of their usual amount, or leaving part of their land fallow.
We’ve been through droughts. This is one of the driest we can remember,” said Dan Errotabere, 66, whose family has grown fruits, vegetables and nuts near Fresno for a century. He is keeping 1,800 acres fallow and cut back on garlic and tomatoes to divert water to almond and pistachio trees.
The effect on farms could cause supply issues and higher prices nationwide, said Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. California produces two-thirds of the country’s fruit and one-third of its vegetables.
Many California farmers are already using micro-irrigation, drip hoses and other water conservation methods. “We’ve stretched every drop,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation farmer in Fresno County.
Agricultural communities are in peril if the crops and trees die without water.
“When you are operating a longstanding family farm, you don’t want to be the one to lose it,” said Eric Bream, the third generation in his family to run a citrus farm in California’s Central Valley. Today he still has enough water. But “tomorrow everything could change on a dime.”
Elsewhere in the West, states are bracing for the prospect of further cutbacks.
Lake Mead, which was created when the Hoover Dam was finished in 1935, is at 36 percent capacity, as flows from the Colorado River have declined more quickly than expected. The federal government is expected to declare a shortage this summer, which would trigger a cut of about one-fifth of water deliveries to Arizona, and a much smaller reduction for Nevada, beginning next year.
Experts have long predicted this. The Colorado Basin has suffered through years of drought coupled with ever-increasing consumption, a result of population and economic growth as well as the expansion of agriculture, by far the largest user of water in the West.
“We need to stop thinking of drought as a temporary thing to get through,” said Felicia Marcus, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West program, noting that global warming is expected to reduce the Colorado River’s flow even further.
Many cities have been preparing. Tucson is among the nation’s leaders in recycling wastewater, treating more than 30 million gallons per day for irrigation or firefighting. Cities and water districts in California are investing billions in infrastructure to store water during wet years to save for droughts.
Still, experts said, there’s a lot more that can be done, and it’s likely to be costly.
“The Colorado River basin is ground zero for climate-change impacts on water supplies in the U.S.,” said Kevin Moran at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We have to plan for the river that climate scientists tell us we’re probably gong to have, not the one we want.”
Edgar Sandoval and Catrin Einhorn contributed reporting.
Brad Plumer is a climate reporter specializing in policy and technology efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions. At The Times, he has also covered international climate talks and the changing energy landscape in the United States. @bradplumer
Jack Healy is a Colorado-based national correspondent who focuses on rural places and life outside America's “City Limits” signs. He has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a graduate of the University of Missouri’s journalism school. @jackhealynyt • Facebook
Henry Fountain specializes in the science of climate change and its impacts. He has been writing about science for The Times for more than 20 years and has traveled to the Arctic and Antarctica. @henryfountain • Facebook
Climate Change Indicators: Heat Waves
This indicator describes trends in multi-day extreme heat events across the United States.
Source EPA Undated
Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States. Their frequency has increased steadily, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s (see Figure 1).
In recent years, the average heat wave in major U.S. urban areas has been about four days long. This is about a day longer than the average heat wave in the 1960s (see Figure 1).
The average heat wave season across the 50 cities in this indicator is 47 days longer now than it was in the 1960s (see Figure 1). Heat waves that occur earlier in the spring or later in the fall can catch people off-guard and increase exposure to the health risks associated with heat waves.
Heat waves have become more intense over time. During the 1960s, the average heat wave across the 50 cities in Figures 1 and 2 was 2.0°F above the local 85th percentile threshold. During the 2010s, the average heat wave has been 2.5°F above the local threshold (see Figure 1).
Of the 50 metropolitan areas in this indicator, 46 experienced a statistically significant increase in heat wave frequency between the 1960s and 2010s. Heat wave duration has increased significantly in 26 of these locations, the length of the heat wave season in 44, and intensity in 16 (see Figure 2).
Longer-term records show that heat waves in the 1930s remain the most severe in recorded U.S. history (see Figure 3). The spike in Figure 3 reflects extreme, persistent heat waves in the Great Plains region during a period known as the “Dust Bowl.” Poor land use practices and many years of intense drought contributed to these heat waves by depleting soil moisture and reducing the moderating effects of evaporation.6
A series of unusually hot days is referred to as an extreme heat event or a heat wave. Heat waves are more than just uncomfortable: they can lead to illness and death, particularly among older adults, the very young, and other vulnerable populations (see the Heat-Related Deaths and Heat-Related Illnesses indicators).1 Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can lead to other impacts as well—for example, damaging crops, injuring or killing livestock, and increasing the risk of wildfires. Prolonged periods of extreme heat can lead to power outages as heavy demands for air conditioning strain the power grid.
Unusually hot days and multi-day heat waves are a natural part of day-to-day variation in weather. As the Earth’s climate warms, however, hotter-than-usual days and nights are becoming more common (see the High and Low Temperatures indicator) and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and intense.2 Increases in these extreme heat events can lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially if people and communities do not take steps to adapt.3 Even small increases in extreme heat can result in increased deaths and illnesses.4
About the Indicator
This indicator examines trends over time in four key characteristics of heat waves in the United States:
Frequency: the number of heat waves that occur every year.
Duration: the length of each individual heat wave, in days.
Season length: the number of days between the first heat wave of the year and the last.
Intensity: how hot it is during the heat wave.
Heat waves can be defined in many different ways. For consistency across the country, Figures 1 and 2 define a heat wave as a period of two or more consecutive days when the daily minimum apparent temperature (the actual temperature adjusted for humidity) in a particular city exceeds the 85thpercentile of historical July and August temperatures (1981–2010) for that city. This definition is useful for several reasons:
The most serious health impacts of a heat wave are often associated with high temperatures at night, which is usually the daily minimum.5 The human body needs to cool off at night, especially after a hot day. If the air stays too warm at night, the body faces extra strain as the heart pumps harder to try to regulate body temperature.
Adjusting for humidity is important because when humidity is high, water does not evaporate as easily, so it is harder for the human body to cool off by sweating. That is why health warnings about extreme heat are often based on the “heat index,” which combines temperature and humidity.
The 85th percentile of July and August temperatures equates to the nine hottest days in a typical summer. A temperature that is typically only recorded nine times during the hottest part of the year is rare enough that most people would consider it to be unusually hot.
By using the 85th percentile for each individual city, Figures 1 and 2 define “unusual” in terms of local conditions. After all, a specific temperature like 95°F might be unusually hot in one city but perfectly normal in another. Plus, people in relatively warm regions (such as the Southwest) may be better acclimated and adapted to hot weather.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calculated apparent temperature for this indicator based on temperature and humidity measurements from long-term weather stations, which are generally located at airports. Figures 1 and 2 focus on the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas that have recorded weather data from a consistent location without many missing days over the time period examined. The year 1961 was chosen as the starting point because most major cities have collected consistent data since at least that time.
Figure 3 provides another perspective to gauge the size and frequency of prolonged heat wave events. It shows the U.S. Annual Heat Wave Index, which tracks the occurrence of heat wave conditions across the contiguous 48 states from 1895 to 2020. This index defines a heat wave as a period lasting at least four days with an average temperature that would only be expected to occur once every 10 years, based on the historical record. The index value for a given year depends on how often such severe heat waves occur and how widespread they are.
About the Data
As cities develop, vegetation is often lost, and more surfaces are paved or covered with buildings. This type of development can lead to higher temperatures—part of an effect called an “urban heat island.” Compared with surrounding rural areas, built-up areas have higher temperatures, especially at night.10 Urban growth since 1961 may have contributed to part of the increase in heat waves that Figures 1 and 2 show for certain cities. This indicator does not attempt to adjust for the effects of development in metropolitan areas, because it focuses on the temperatures to which people are actually exposed, regardless of whether the trends reflect a combination of climate change and other factors.
Figures 1 and 2 focus on the 50 most populous metropolitan areas that had complete data for the entire period from 1961 to 2019. Several large metropolitan areas did not have enough data, such as New York City, Houston, Minneapolis–St. Paul, and Denver. In some of these cases, the best available long-term weather station was relocated sometime between 1961 and 2019—for example, when a new airport opened.
As noted above, Figures 1 and 2 focus on daily minimum temperatures because of the connection between nighttime cooling (or lack thereof) and human health. For reference, EPA’s technical documentation for this indicator shows the results of a similar analysis based on daily maximum temperatures.
Temperature data are less certain for the early part of the 20th century because fewer stations were operating at that time. In addition, measuring devices and methods have changed over time, and some stations have moved. The data in Figure 3 have been adjusted to the extent possible to account for some of these influences and biases, however, and these uncertainties are not sufficient to change the fundamental nature of the trends.
Figures 1 and 2 are adapted from an analysis by Habeeb et al. (2015).11 They are based on temperature and humidity measurements from weather stations managed by NOAA’s National Weather Service. NOAA calculates daily apparent temperatures for metropolitan areas and publishes the results at: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/societal-impacts/heat-stress/data. Figure 3 is based on measurements from weather stations in the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network. The data are available online at: www.ncdc.noaa.gov. Components of this indicator can also be found at: www.globalchange.gov/indicators.
1 Sarofim, M.C., S. Saha, M.D. Hawkins, D.M. Mills, J. Hess, R. Horton, P. Kinney, J. Schwartz, and A. St. Juliana. 2016. Chapter 2: Temperature-related death and illness. In: The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. https://health2016.globalchange.gov.
2 USGCRP (U.S. Global Change Research Program). 2017. Climate science special report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, volume I. Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.). https://science2017.globalchange.gov. doi:10.7930/J0J964J6..
3 U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2015. Climate change in the United States: Benefits of global action. EPA 430-R-15-001. www.epa.gov/cira.
4 Sarofim, M.C., S. Saha, M.D. Hawkins, D.M. Mills, J. Hess, R. Horton, P. Kinney, J. Schwartz, and A. St. Juliana. 2016. Chapter 2: Temperature-related death and illness. In: The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. https://health2016.globalchange.gov.
5 Sarofim, M.C., S. Saha, M.D. Hawkins, D.M. Mills, J. Hess, R. Horton, P. Kinney, J. Schwartz, and A. St. Juliana. 2016. Chapter 2: Temperature-related death and illness. In: The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. https://health2016.globalchange.gov.
6 CCSP (U.S. Climate Change Science Program). 2008. Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.3: Weather and climate extremes in a changing climate. www.globalchange.gov/browse/reports/sap-33-weather-and-climate-extremes-changing-climate.
7 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 2021. Heat stress datasets and documentation. Accessed February 2021. www.ncdc.noaa.gov/societal-impacts/heat-stress/data.
8 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 2021. Heat stress datasets and documentation. Accessed February 2021. www.ncdc.noaa.gov/societal-impacts/heat-stress/data.
9Kunkel, K. 2021. Updated version of Figure 2.3 in: CCSP (U.S. Climate Change Science Program). 2008. Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.3: Weather and climate extremes in a changing climate. www.globalchange.gov/browse/reports/sap-33-weather-and-climate-extremes-changing-climate.
10 U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2016. Heat island effect. www.epa.gov/heatislands.
11 Habeeb, D., J. Vargo, and B. Stone, Jr. 2015. Rising heat wave trends in large U.S. cities. Nat. Hazards 76(3):1651–1665. doi:10.1007/s11069-014-1563-z.