Heat Waves Are the Tip Of Connecticut’s Climate Change Iceberg

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Frank Himmelstein typically works 12 hours a day in the fields of the historic Himmelstein Homestead Farm in Lebanon.

Normally, it’s hard work managing fields full of squash, peppers and other vegetables, but July 20 was anything but a normal day. The temperature in Lebanon hit 95 degrees.

Mariama Turay Photo.

Kyle Galvin

“It’s not good for people to be working out in this heat,” Himmelstein said on July 21. “Yesterday, well, even I needed to pace myself yesterday.”

The average ‘extremely hot’ day in Connecticut is classified as reaching 90 degrees or above. So far during 2022, there have been nine days that have reached or surpassed this threshold- and July 20 was the tenth such day.

Two days before, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the state was activating its ‘extreme hot weather protocol.’ State officials say that this ensures that the most vulnerable residents are protected from the intense temperatures.

Heat waves, which are defined as ‘abnormal’ and ‘uncomfortable’ periods of long-lasting high temperatures, are becoming increasingly common as the effects of worldwide climate change take hold. Droughts are also taking place more in conjunction with these waves, which results in massive wildfire potential, according to climatecheck.com.

“On average, the frequency of higher temperatures in Connecticut has increased over the decades,” Darren Sweeney, an NBC Connecticut meteorologist, said.

He’s been monitoring the extreme heat situation in Connecticut for years, and it’s been getting more alarming in recent years. He said the temperatures this year aren’t record breaking, but the all-around situation is worsening.

“2020 was the year with the most 90-degree days on record in Connecticut,” he said. “And that was just two years ago.”

Connecticut’s highest temperature was a staggering 106 degrees, recorded during the state’s infamous heat wave of 1916.

Sweeney said experts are worried that such anomalies are going to become more common in Connecticut as the climate changes. Think stranger weather such as hurricanes Sandy and Irene, or as Sweeney mentioned, the Halloween of 2020, when snow dusted trees that hadn’t even let their leaves go. Believe it or not, these phenomena have to do with rising temperatures.

Farmer Frank Himmelstein showing off some of his crop at his farm in Lebanon.

“These warmer temperatures are heating the oceans, which causes bigger storms, and that causes more rain. It’s a big cyclical issue,” Sweeney said. “Last summer, there were four different tropical systems that hit Connecticut and delivered more than the state’s average. Storms are getting bigger. They’re getting wetter. And that’s a problem.”

In Lebanon, Himmelstein said he has never irrigated his crops despite heat and prolonged drought. All the water comes naturally.

“My soil here holds water like a sponge,” he said.

Himmelstein cites other areas of Connecticut’s agriculture businesses that are being harmed by climate change. After some abnormally warm days in April, an orchard owned by a friend of his had its peaches bloom early due to the higher temperatures. But after a couple cold April nights, disaster struck.

“After [those nights], he lost 75 percent of his crop,” Himmelstein said.

He said extreme heat and dryness can also make greenhouse wells run dry. The state’s factory farms are even affected. Livestock drink more water in higher temperatures, making the farms prone to water shortages.

“Everything – all our weather is extreme now,” Himmelstein said. “It’s either extreme heat, or extreme dryness, or extreme rain.”

Kyle Galvin is a student at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington.

 

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