Extreme Temperature Diary- Friday September 23rd, 2022/Main Topic: In the Face of Yet Another Heatwave, It’s Hard to Let Western Kids Outdoors

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: In the Face of Yet Another Heatwave, It’s Hard to Let Western Kids Outdoors

Dear Diary. I mentioned on my Twitter feed yesterday that our latest U.S. heatwave was in the process of ending east of the Rockies in conjunction with the autumnal equinox:

What I didn’t mention on the above tweet is that as an upper-level trough of cold air digging east of the Rockies, responsible for ending eastern heat, a corresponding western heat dome would be building over the southwestern U.S. Summer weather really doesn’t end for California for many weeks after the autumnal equinox, and this is so true in this age of the climate crisis:

I was notified yesterday about a recent New York Times opinion piece indicating that parents are having a more difficult time letting their children play outdoors across the Weet Coast. In an environment of increasing smoke from more numerous wildfires and hotter temperatures overall, who can blame them?

Here is that New York Times piece:

OPINION

GUEST ESSAY

‘We Can’t Let the Kids Go Outdoors’: Our New Reality on the West Coast

Sept. 21, 2022

Credit…Tracy Barbutes/Reuters

By Emma Pattee

Ms. Pattee is a writer, climate journalist and native Oregonian.

On Labor Day, my husband and I stood at the sliding glass door to our hotel room balcony, staring out at smoky skies.

We were at Lake Chelan in Washington, on our first big post-pandemic vacation, with our 3-year-old and our 6-week-old baby. Overnight, the wind had brought wildfire smoke from fires in Idaho and Montana. I woke up with a sore throat. I slid open the balcony door and the smell of a bonfire came rushing in. The lake was barely visible through a curtain of haze that blocked the sun and turned everything sepia-colored.

“We can’t let the kids go outdoors,” I said.

“We can’t keep them indoors,” my husband replied.

Next to us, our toddler banged his shovel against his sand bucket.

I looked down at my phone to check the air quality index: A.Q.I. 122. Above 50 is considered “acceptable.” Above 100 is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” like children and the elderly. But there is no amount of wildfire smoke that is safe to breathe. Smoke is made up of tiny particles that burrow deep into your lungs and pass into your bloodstream. Scientists don’t know what will happen to our children, who are growing up exposed to wildfire smoke summer after summer after summer, for weeks at a time.

This is the new summer on the West Coast: checking the air quality before going on a hike, getting anxious on a windy day because it means the fires are going to get worse. Scheduling camping trips, swimming lessons and soccer camp and then canceling them as smoke interferes. Entire Saturdays spent inside, trying to entertain my rambunctious toddler and fussy baby. For children growing up in the American West, it isn’t a question of what you want to do outdoors; it’s a question of whether you can even go outside.

A changing climate, a changing world

Climate change around the world: In “Postcards From a World on Fire,” 193 stories from individual countries show how climate change is reshaping reality everywhere, from dying coral reefs in Fiji to disappearing oases in Morocco and far, far beyond.

And it will only get worse. Climate scientists estimate that the frequency of large wildfires could increase by over 30 percent in the next 30 years and over 50 percent in the next 80 years, thanks in large part to drought and extreme heat caused by climate change. Over 40 percent of Americans live in areas with hazardous air quality levels, and that number is growing with each fire season. Twenty-four of the top 25 worst cities with particulate matter pollution are on the West Coast.

My husband and I grew up in Oregon and spent our summers camping, playing pickup basketball and biking with our friends. When I got pregnant, we talked about the things we wanted to do with our kids: camping in the Wallowas, biking down the Oregon coast, kayaking in the Columbia River and hiking on Mount Hood. All parents do this — superimpose their own childhoods onto their children’s — and parents are wrong. Their kids like soccer instead of skiing or want to play video games instead of the piano.

But for kids growing up in the West right now, summer is becoming a season of hazards, spent at least partly indoors. Even meeting our most ambitious climate goals will not change the fact that our children will live through increasingly smoky summers in which the days they can safely play outside will become fewer and fewer. Instead of buying kayaks, I should buy them an indoor play gym. Stop stocking up on sunscreen; stock up on games and toys instead. Screen time is no longer something to avoid; it’s now a salvation.

Back in our hotel room, we eventually decide we will stay inside until the A.Q.I. drops below 100. I turn on “Paw Patrol” and my husband goes to the vending machine to buy soda and snacks.

Every 15 minutes, my son wanders over to the sliding glass door, looking out at the lake. “I have a perfect great idea,” he says, pointing at a flamingo pool float drifting forlornly in the haze. “Let’s go ride the mingo.”

“Not yet, buddy,” I say, for the hundredth time. “The air is dirty.”

It feels like admitting defeat to stop planning camping trips, or plan to host an indoor birthday party in August. I keep grasping at the summer I wish they could have: entire days playing in the woods, covered in dirt, carefree.

I am guilty of denial, too. When the air quality finally improves during our lake vacation, and we venture outside to the sandy beach, I stare up at the grimy sky and try to convince myself that this is just a one-off. Surely the smoke will fully clear tomorrow. Besides, how bad can one smoky day be for a child’s lungs?

The next morning, my toddler wakes us up with a wet, hacking cough. The smoke hasn’t cleared. We pack our bags and drive home early.

A few days later, heavy winds brought wildfire smoke to our home in northeast Portland, filling the house with the smell of stale smoke. The sky turned from gray to dirty orange, the sun a dim orb in the sky, like a streetlight that somebody forgot to turn off.

I shut all the windows and canceled our plans. Another summer day spent indoors.

More on smoke and wildfires

Opinion | David Wallace-Wells

The American West’s Haunting, Smoke-Filled Future

Aug. 24, 2022

Opinion | Chad Hanson and Michael Dorsey

The Case Against Commercial Logging in Wildfire-Prone Forests

July 30, 2022

At Yosemite, a Preservation Plan That Calls for Chain Saws

July 27, 2022

Emma Pattee is a writer, climate journalist and native Oregonian.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Related:

Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:

The tropics are making big news this week. Here are some recent notes and links from in association with tropical activity:

Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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