Good morning. It’s Friday. On a day when an excessive heat warning is in effect, we’ll see what climate change might mean for future summers in New York. We’ll also look at places where you can keep cool.
Here’s a forecast for a Friday in late July.
The temperature in New York this morning is 81 degrees, with a hazy sunrise. New York will top out at 102 degrees today, making this the fourth straight day with 100-plus highs. Air quality alerts are in effect throughout the region as wildfire smoke continues to pour in, prompting a spike in emergency rooms visits. The Giants and the Jets have once again moved practice times at their training camps to this evening to avoid the heat.
Looking ahead to the weekend, flood warnings are in effect for tomorrow, with projected rainfall of 3 to 5 inches. Some areas could see as much as 8 inches.
That’s not the forecast for today, when New York will swelter in 90-degree weather. It’s a forecast you might see 40 years from now, on July 28, 2063 — which happens to be a Friday. I wrote that forecast after talking with climate experts about heat waves and rising temperatures. Here’s what went into it.
Looking ahead 40 years gives a better indication of rising temperatures than, say, a 10-year time window. The year-to-year or decade-by-decade increases we’ve heard about in a changing climate do add up eventually: The nonprofit research collaborative Climate Central says that the average summer temperature in New York will be 3.4 degrees higher in 2063 than now, assuming current emission levels continue.
Climate Central’s prediction for an even more distant date — 2100 — is that the average temperature in 247 cities across the country will be 8 degrees higher than it is now. New York will warm up slightly less than that, according to the group’s projections: Only 7.6 degrees. But that will make summer in New York feel more like present-day Columbia, S.C., where the forecasts for today and tomorrow called for heat index values as high as 104 degrees.
The city says the average daily high temperature is already 5 degrees above what it was five decades ago, to 88 degrees from 83 degrees when John Lindsay was mayor. “There are many more days every summer that are hot but not extremely hot,” with temperatures of at least 82 degrees, according to a city report. There were 52 “non-extreme hot days” from 1971 to 1975, while there were 74 between 2016 and 2020.
Climate Central says New York is faced with “sprawling heat intensity.” Urban heat island effects in New York, which occur because buildings absorb and hold more heat than forests or waterways, “are not concentrated in a central core but rather spread across a vast developed land area,” Climate Central said in a recent report. New York led the nation on an urban heat island index that Climate Central compiled, with temperatures that averaged 8.6 degrees hotter than places with more trees or fewer buildings.
The climate experts I spoke with mentioned consequences that New York has already had a taste of: Continued smoke from wildfires, if not in Canada, then in the western United States. That, in turn, could lead to more hospitalizations for people with respiratory issues.
Some climate specialists also suggested that extreme heat could prompt a shift in the rhythms of daily life in New York by the 2040s, changing when football teams practice, for example. Peak delivery times could shift to late afternoon or early evening to keep workers off the streets when temperatures are highest.
Emily Nobel Maxwell, the director of the Nature Conservancy’s Cities Program in New York, said that how close New York comes to the forecast I wrote for 2063 depends on actions taken now. “It’s not a predetermined future,” she said.
She said that besides adding green roofs and reflective surfaces where possible, the city needs trees. The tree canopy covers about 22 percent now, she said; bills introduced in the City Council would raise the total to 30 percent.
The Parks Department says it has been busy planting. It says just under 15,000 new trees went into the ground in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, the most in six years. The department put a priority on planting in neighborhoods most at risk: More than a third of the new trees went to “heat vulnerable neighborhoods,” based on a citywide index.
Bernadette Woods Placky, the chief meteorologist at Climate Central, said higher temperatures had magnified the challenges of forecasting. “Most forecasters really are trying to keep people safe and prepared,” she said. “Those challenges grow so big when we add in the impacts that we are seeing that are changing the ways we will have to approach our daily lives, unless we make changes now.”
How and where to stay cool
“This is not our first heat wave, and with climate change accelerating, it won’t be our last,” Mayor Eric Adams said on Thursday.
He also said that heat kills more New Yorkers than “any other kind of extreme weather event,” so he and other officials encouraged people to take advantage of cooling centers. To find the closest one, you can put your address into the city’s website or call 311. There is also a map of cooling center locations. Zach Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner, suggested calling to confirm the hours.
If you don’t need a cooling center, “you can take part in indoor activities like going to the movies, visiting a museum or library or walking in a mall,” the mayor said. The Queens Public Library has extended the hours at its central and Flushing locations because of the heat. They will be open until 8 p.m., two hours longer than usual.
Another beat-the-heat possibility: Most city pools open at 11 a.m. The mayor said they would remain open an additional hour, until 8 p.m., tonight and tomorrow.
Iscol urged a “balanced approach to energy usage” over the next few days to conserve energy and avoid power failures, and officials cautioned against putting the air conditioning on the coldest setting. “Although air-conditioning is a critical tool in this heat battle, it doesn’t need to be operating at maximum capacity,” Iscol said. He called 78 degrees an appropriate temperature for “maintaining your comfort while also ensuring energy consumption for the entire city remains sustainable.”
Officials also advised turning off lights that don’t need to be on and postponing chores that involve energy-hogging appliances like washing machines.
An excessive heat warning, the first in nearly two years, will be in effect until at least 9 p.m. tonight. During the day, expect temperatures in the low- to mid-90s. At night, it will be mostly clear with temps near 80.
In effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).