This time of the year, I try to be careful to be back at home, after my dog walk, before the yellow school buses interrupted the flow of traffic. It takes me a week or two to remember the buses are on the road now that it’s September. The 9th month is, of course, back to school, and typically our weather isn’t very hot. This year, the period from September 7th through the 9th will prove that 90s can still happen at the same time the kids are learning about math, history or perhaps a new language.
Being in an institutional building without a cooling system in this heat is certainly tough. It calls for slowing down, drinking water, and generally just being smart about the weather. Before now, this summer hadn’t brought any record highs. This makes late season heat even tougher to take.
It’s happened before
While unusual, this certainly isn’t unprecedented. Back in 1881 the temperatures during September reached over 100 degrees. That year, September averaged over 2 degrees above average. Fast forward over 100 years when, in 1983, the mercury soared to 90 or better six times during September. (Logan Airport) That was the last time Boston, Providence and Hartford recorded a heat wave and we haven’t done it in the 3 decades since. There was a four-day heat wave in 1915, and a three-day heat wave in 1961. This year’s heat wave will last 3 days.
Back in the day
Yes it’s hot and for many of us who are in fall work mode, it’s uncomfortable. While this isn’t necessarily fun, I wonder what folks in school did back in 1915 when there wasn’t any air conditioning, not only in the schools, but virtually anywhere.
I’m as guilty as anyone about the air conditioning. I can’t imagine life in the summer heat and humidity without it. However, if I had to survive in hot weather without air conditioning, I’d manage. It’s not lost on me one of the many privileges of living in modern western society is we do have these pieces of technology which make living easier.
Today, I pondered some electronic exchanges I read where the level of urgency and angst, around a few hours in a hot classroom, felt frankly overheated. Watching the evening news, you might begin to wonder if cities are actually melting.
I think about these things in a context where there are families crossing through Syria enduring a far higher level of heat and more intense angle of sun than any of us in New England.
I think about kids heading off to school on Monday, September 23, 1895, and how that day’s high reached 96 degrees in Boston, and was in the 90s from Washington to Maine. What were those school buildings and offices like to learn and work in? Air conditioning would have to wait seven more years to even be invented. If you are interested, all the record highs for every day of the year in Boston are below.
Air Conditioning Saves Lives
According to MIT environmental economics professor Michael Greenstone, the widespread availability of air conditioning has saved lives. In a Washington Post article from December 2012, “A team of researchers from Tulane University, Carnegie Mellon University, the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined patterns in heat-related deaths between 1900 and 2004. The group found that days on which temperatures rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit accounted for about 600 premature deaths annually between 1960 and 2004, one-sixth as many as would have occurred under pre-1960 conditions.” If further states the researchers found the likelihood of a premature death on an extremely hot day between 1929 and 1959 was 2.5 percent, the academics found, dropping to less than 0.5 percent after 1960.
You can find more of my weather information on Twitter @growingwisdom.
Wednesday will bring more heat and more humidity. It will be tough to be in spaces without air conditioning, but fans can help. Keep hydrated if you are in a warm space, limit your activity and look forward to the cooler and eventually drier weather slated to arrive this weekend.
We may not be out of the 90 degree weather completely. 90s have occurred throughout September and even into October.