Summer 2021 has brought extreme heat to many areas of the United States, setting temperature records in multiple states. Extreme heat is relative to each climate, but is defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a period of temperatures above 90 degrees and high humidity for at least two to three days. Affected communities report excess deaths, overwhelmed healthcare systems, and power supply strains. Vulnerable populations, including individuals with medical conditions and disabilities, as well as children, older adults, unhoused persons, agricultural and other outdoor workers, and persons without air-conditioning, may be at particular risk of heat-related illness or death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that extreme heat is one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “[s]ome statistical approaches estimate that more than 1,300 deaths per year” in the United States are due to extreme heat.