Got into some heated debates(no pun intended) on Facebook last week about why we talk about the heat so much. By “we” most people mean the TV meteorologist and for that matter the news media as a whole. Even though there is a distinct difference in my opinion. While it certainly is true as broadcasters we have been known to not put things in proper perspective when it comes to the weather coverage. In this case though I think we are just doing what is necessary. Some thought that we were overplaying the heat wave so far this summer, basically hey, “it’s just summer in the Carolinas..blah..blah..blah.” While I agree to some extent, the fatality statistics tell me we should be taking it very serious. Especially when the temperature or heat index get above 98.6°, which is our body temperature. Remember once it gets that hot you need help cooling down, more water, fans or A/C..etc.
The hottest our average high ever gets in Charlotte is 91° over the summer. So if we are 5-10° above that it’s a big deal. Why? Well the hottest we have ever been is 104°(twice in 2007), so that’s only a 13° spread from the “normal” hottest days of summer and the most extreme case in 132 years of records.
In contrast take Winter the lowest our average low ever gets is 32° but our all time low is -5°. That’s a 37° difference from our “normal” coldest winter time temps and our most extreme temperature.
So you can see being 5-10° colder than normal in the winter isn’t as extreme as being 5-10° warmer than normal in the summer.
Then there is this. The past heat wave which was mainly last week and last weekend has already killed 33 people. Take a look at the average annual weather related deaths and notice which causes more deaths.
If you take out Katrina with over 1000 deaths from 2005 Heat still is far and away the #1 weather related cause of death in the U.S.