SAN ANTONIO—San Antonio ranked 4th in the nation for cities with excessive heat days last summer, according to a new report released today by Environment Texas. Environment Texas said the warmer-than-normal weather last summer and flooding this summer is indicative of what Texas can expect with continued global warming.
“Throw out the record books, because global warming is raising temperatures and wreaking havoc with our weather in Texas and across the country,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “The long-term forecast is for more of the same unless we quickly and significantly reduce global warming pollution from power plants and passenger vehicles,” continued Metzger.
According to the National Climatic Data Center, the 2006 summer and 2006 overall were the second warmest on record for the lower 48 states. 2007 is on track to be the second warmest year on record globally.
To examine recent temperature patterns in the United States, Environment Texas compared temperature data for the years 2000-2006 from 255 weather stations located in all 50 states and Washington, DC with temperatures averaged over the 30 years spanning 1971-2000, or what scientists call the “normal” temperature.
Key findings for San Antonio include:
- Over the course of 2006, San Antonio experienced 151 days where the temperature hit at least 90°F, 38 days more than the historical average. This ranked San Antonio 4th in the nation (tied with Austin) for number of excessive heat days. Heat waves have serious implications for human health, causing heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death.
- San Antonio ranked 9th in the nation recording average maximum temperatures — the highest temperatures recorded on a given day —above normal. During 2006, average maximum temperature in San Antonio was 4.2°F above normal.
- San Antonio experienced average minimum temperatures — the lowest temperatures recorded on a given day, usually at night — of 2.6°F above normal in 2006. Warmer nighttime temperatures exacerbate the public health effects of heat waves, since people need cooler nighttime temperatures to recover from excessive heat exposure during the day.
- San Antonio’s above-average temperatures in 2006 are part of a broader warming trend since 2000. Between 2000 and 2006, the average temperature was 1.4°F above the 30-year average in San Antonio. Nationally, the average temperature during this seven year period was at least 0.5°F above normal at 87% of the locations studied.
In April 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that North America could experience significant heavy precipitation, forest fires, and “an increased number, intensity, and duration of heat waves” as temperatures continue to rise.
“Scientists are sounding alarm bells about the impacts of continued global warming,” stated Metzger. “The good news is that those same scientists say we can avoid the worst effects of global warming by taking bold action now to reduce global warming pollution,” continued Metzger.
This “report documents a clear pattern of increasing temperature extremes, and thus adds to the growing body of evidence that confirms studies and projections of the IPCC and the Union of Concerned Scientists,” said Professor Emeritus William E. Kurtin, of Trinity University’s Biochemistry Department. “The recommendations for changes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are all viable options that should be promoted. For the state of Texas, the further development of alternative energy technologies will likely result in economic stimuli that will more than offset loss of revenue from the decreasing use of fossil fuels”.
To avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the United States must halt increases in global warming emissions now, cut emissions by at least 15-20% by 2020, and slash emissions by at least 80% by 2050.
“The better news is that we have the technology at our fingertips to cut global warming pollution and forge a cleaner, more secure energy future,” said Metzger.
The United States could substantially reduce its global warming pollution by using existing technologies to make power plants, businesses, homes, and cars more efficient and generate more electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.
Congress is poised to consider global warming legislation this fall. The Safe Climate Act in the U.S. House and the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act in the U.S. Senate are the only bills that would reduce pollution to levels that scientists say are needed to prevent the worst effects of global warming.
“The heat is on Congress to take decisive action to curb global warming,” stated Metzger. “Environment Texas calls on Representative Charlie Gonzalez to support the only bill that does what scientists say we need to do—the Safe Climate Act,” concluded Metzger.