07/11/2013 11:33 am ET Updated Sep 10, 2013

100 Years of Extreme Heat

The World Meteorological Organization recently released its Global Climate Report, which found that the last decade (2001-2010) was the warmest since the beginning of modern measurements in 1850. Couple that with the fact that 2012 was the hottest year on record and it's clear that the Earth is warming.

The trend of global average temperatures is decidedly rising, but what about the all-time high-water mark for temperature at any point in recorded time? As it turns out, yesterday was the 100-year anniversary of the hottest temperature ever recorded, 134 degrees Fahrenheit at the aptly named Furnace Creek, Calif.

The Huffington Post has a fine infographic showing each U.S. state's all-time high temp and the year it was recorded. Oddly enough, more than half the nation -- 32 of 50 states -- recorded their highest temperature before 1950. Don't let that fool you, though. The average temperature of the continental U.S. is 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than that of 1913.

We've also seen more prolonged periods of extreme heat in recent years, as 99.1 million Americans lived through 10 or more days of 100+ degree weather in 2012. Extremely hot days are more than just uncomfortable inconveniences and excuses to crank the air conditioning -- they're deadly, and as the EPA points out, take more lives than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. Each year, approximately 1,500 people die from excessive heat events in the U.S.

Projections of future heat waves have them becoming more deadly. Researchers at Columbia University found that heat-related deaths in New York could increase by 20 percent by the 2020s, and long-term projections show the problem getting exponentially worse. The study's worst-case scenario showed deaths increasing by 90 percent or more by the 2080s.

Much of the country is already into the so-called dog days of summer. With excessive heat events being all but a certainty for most regions of the country, check out the EPA's tips for mitigating the dangers of deadly summer heat.

  1. Turn on the AC! If your home isn't air-conditioned, visit a building in your community that is, like a movie theater, library or mall.
  2. Take a cool shower or bath.
  3. Drink lots of fluids, and avoid beverages with caffeine, alcohol or lots of sugar. When in doubt, stick with water.
  4. If you take medication, consult your doctor on whether your medication could increase susceptibility to heat-related illness.
  5. Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing. Light colors help, too.
  6. Visit at-risk friends or family members at least twice a day. The at-risk include older adults and young children, as well as those who suffer from mental impairment, chronic illness and obesity.

We may not see Furnace Creek's 134-degree temperature knocked off as the world's hottest on record, but we're sure to see some extreme -- and deadly -- heat waves. When the heat hits your area, don't get caught in a life-threatening predicament. Follow the EPA's tips and stay cool.