Urbana-Champaign swelters under heatwave

By Cecilia Milmoe, INTERIM FEATURES EDITOR

Erin Nibeck, sophomore in FAA, took the bus to her dentist appointment to avoid walking in the heat. However, when she left, she realized that she wasn’t going to beat the heat after all.

“I got out of the dentist and saw that there wasn’t a bus for 20 minutes, so I had to walk all the way back to my apartment, which is a 20-minute walk,” Nibeck said. “It was so hot, and I was just exhausted afterwards.”

Nibeck isn’t alone in her struggles with the heat. The past two weeks have seen irregularly high temperatures across the country. According to data collected by weather.com, the temperature in Champaign has reached over 100 degrees twice in the past two weeks, with many days experiencing temperatures upward of 90 degrees.

Jane Pak, junior in LAS, said she has tried out things she never has before to help combat the heat.

“I’ve been using an umbrella for the sun, which I’ve never done before until now,” Pak said. “It’s just been every single day — it’s so hot, and I can’t handle it.”

Nibeck said the heat has affected her daily life, as well as her wellbeing.

“I haven’t been going outside as much recently which has definitely been frustrating because going outside is really important for my mental health,” Nibeck said.

Pak shared similar frustrations, saying that the heat has prevented her from making plans with others.

Both Nibeck and Pak said they have taken measures to handle the heat, such as turning up their air conditioning, drinking plenty of water and staying inside when they can.

“I just have to spend a lot more time inside because it’s so hot,” Nibeck said. “I can’t be outside for a long time without getting sunburnt or getting really dehydrated.”

Nibeck, who studies architecture, explained that one reason students on campus may be feeling the heat so intensely is because of the abundance of concrete on campus. Nibeck explained that because concrete has a high thermal mass, it absorbs and emits heat at a higher rate than other materials.

“Because the University has so many concrete sidewalks and parking lots, it makes the temperature that you experience feel a lot hotter,” Nibeck said. “It makes the temperature that you experience feel up to 10 degrees hotter.”

Nibeck said that an effective way to balance this and to lower the temperatures of cities is through green spaces, areas reserved for plant life and the natural environment.

While the usage of concrete in cities can contribute to the heat, it is not the only factor. Deanna Hence, professor in Atmospheric Sciences, explained that climate change plays a large role in instances of extreme heat.

“Having a heat wave in the summer is not unusual,” Hence said. “Where climate change really starts to factor in is in two ways. One way is the intensity and the severity, but it also increases the likelihood of those types of events happening.”

Hence compared the effects of climate change on temperature to applying a curve to a test. There is a range of possible temperatures, and with climate change, every temperature within the range becomes shifted up in the same way a curve shifts the range of grades up.

“That’s where climate change is really factoring into things, it’s kind of shifting where our normal is,” Hence said. “So, what was a normal heat in our past may now be a colder temperature, and what was considered really hot in our past may now be considered more normal.”

Hence said that while the range of temperatures continues to grow hotter, it is still possible for cold spells to occur.

“People get confused when there’s an abnormally cool season, and say, ‘Well what’s this with climate change,’ but those colds are still possible, it’s just the likelihood that they’ll happen is going down,” Hence said.

Hence explained that while media attention is given to the hot temperatures in the daytime, the rising temperatures at night are the larger issue. Hence said record high temperatures are being set at the low end of the temperature range at night. Humans require colder temperatures at night as a break from the heat, and with high night temperatures, the body doesn’t get the break from the heat.

Hence said it is important to check on loved ones during times of extreme heat, as it is one of the deadliest forms of extreme weather.

“Make sure to check in on the most vulnerable people that you care about and make sure that they’re prepared and that they’re okay, because heat is sneaky and you don’t want it to be the cause of someone’s harm,” Hence said.

Hence said that while some aspects of climate change will take a long time to reverse, many of the negative impacts can be improved.

“The vast majority of the negative impacts of climate change can be helped if we start making different decisions,” Hence said. “The outcomes of climate change are very much in our hands.”

Hence also said that it is important to take action and to become involved in all levels of decision-making through activism and that creating change is possible. Hence said that while frustration can turn to despair, there is hope for the future.

“If we really work together and really get involved to change some of these larger decisions, to make sure that everyone is being treated fairly and equitably, and we start adjusting our lifestyles, especially as Americans, then we can really start to turn the needle around,” Hence said.

 

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