We Just Sweated Through the Hottest Summer Nights on Record

Illustration for article titled We Just Sweated Through the Hottest Summer Nights on Record
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The three-month span from June to August is always the worst season. It’s a season of armpit sweat; a time of searching for shade or air conditioning. And if it felt like this summer sucked even more than usual, you’re not imagining it. The summer of 2018's hellacious heat set a new record.


U.S. summer nights were the hottest ever recorded, according to data released on Thursday by the National Centers for Environmental Information. Factoring in daytime highs, summer 2018 came in as the fourth warmest on record for the U.S., with temperatures 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Every summer in the top 10 has occurred since 2002.

Local temperature records further illustrate just how freaky warm nights were this summer. There were 6,160 record set for warm nights across the U.S. this summer, outpacing record cold nights by a ratio of 7.5 to 1.

The Northeast has had wild heat waves (which have yet to stop as evidenced by the 104 degree Fahrenheit heat index in New York today). California has also been wickedly hot, and those hot overnight lows have played a major role in fanning flames. When temperatures drop at night, fires usually “lay down” and firefighters are better able to contain them. That didn’t happen much this summer, which is how we got the Carr Fire ravaging a city overnight.

Overnight heat is also a major public health concern, especially for children and the elderly, who are more vulnerable to heat-related illness. It’s also, somewhat counterintuitively, an acute problem in areas where extreme heat isn’t the norm because people aren’t used to warmer temperatures or don’t have air conditioning at the ready to cool down.

You can probably thank climate change for this garbage summer. Overnight lows are warming twice as fast as daytime highs and nearly every heat wave that occurs now is getting an extra bump from climate change. That means the most trash season will only become more trash. I need a beer.

Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.


There’s an interesting trend that I’ve been seeing recently, which is complaints about heat very similar to all the stuff I personally complained about for years... only I’m in the tropical zone whereas the complaints I’m hearing are from temperate zones.

So, I can sympathize, but that’s not a very good sign... part of the reason why I moved to a city that’s close to 1000 meters above sea level versus my hometown which is just 100 meters above sea level is because of the difference in climate that makes - it’s drier and colder here in my current city, despite being in the same state.

It’s kinda strange really... even though I lived almost 30 years of my life there, the older I got the worse I felt about the humid heat. Got to a point that whenever I went somewhere that I didn’t felt that hot humid stale heat that made you sweat all night feeling miserable and not being able to sleep well, it was paradise. The difference in mood, disposition, willingness to do all sorts of things and whatnot was such a life changing experience that I just had to move.

Of course, I had air conditioning, fans and all that, but that kinda heat limits everything. You don’t wanna go outside during summer, the humidity makes winter harsher, and it’s always kinda bad to feel dependant on fans and air conditioners... I’m not sure if spending so much time with those worked well for my health too.

And I can’t even imagine what is life for fellow brazilians who live closer to the equator... I’m down right on top of the tropics line, up there it’s far hotter, there’s practically no winter, just constant hot, humid, stale heat all year long.

But a man is an island I guess. My mom is just the opposite. She loves the weather in my hometown, she hates the weather in my city, and thus we live apart. Obviously not the only reason, but it is one.

Anyways, in these new times when we’ll probably get way more desertification in the tropics, and temperate zones will probably get closer to what tropics have been up to now, my word of advise goes to: take all precautions necessary to avoid the plague of mosquitoes. There are potentially lots of states in the US that will have climates becoming more favorable for the proliferation of these pests, and I cannot overstate how much they can make peoples’ lives worse in general. Of course, some US states already know full well of that, but like save for small exceptions like southermost states, Brazil knows this as a whole. Zika became notorious, but the reality of it is that Brazil has been fighting mosquito born illnesses for it’s entire lifetime. And there is no easy solution.

Every xmas I have a good reminder of that when I visit relatives upstate. Not only it’s the peak of summer (remember Brazil is in the other hemisphere), in my mom’s tiny 5000 pop hometown in relatives house where she grew up there’s no air conditioning, no nets in windows and doors, and basically one or more fans for every room. I love my family and relatives, but that place is hell. And then sometimes I go to a beach house of other relatives from my father side of the family, and let me tell you that if you never went through the experience of not being able to sleep because tens of mosquitoes were draining your blood out through a hot humid night, I don’t wish you to ever experience this in your lifetime. Or beyond, for that matter. Because that’s what happens there.

My previous experience early this year left such an impression that when I got back home one of the first things I did was buying half a dozen mosquito bed nets to give to my relatives when I go there again. I also bought a portable air conditioner for my mom’s relatives some years ago, which is still being used in my cousin’s kid room.

It’s a spiral. Your life gets tangled around these matters, it becomes an obstacle for thinking about other more productive things.