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: The Death of Dozens of U.S. Outdoor Workers Due to Extreme 2023 Heat
Dear Diary. Most of us are fortunate enough to escape the extreme heat of this summer by turning on our air conditioning units. For migrant workers who have to work during the heat of the day, the outdoors can’t be air conditioned, of course. Deaths from the heat from extreme events like this year’s Heatwave British Petroleum in June and ongoing Heatwave Chevron that started in July can be avoided if enough water and breaks are provided by farm owners. Sadly, due to greed, slim profit margins, and how fast produce can spoil if left unpicked and processed, some workers don’t get essentials for their survival.
My readers don’t know this, but I was born in southwest Georgia close to Plains where President Jimmy Carter was from. That area of the country is where big truck farms are located, some of which I witnessed in operation when I was very young. Only second to California, it is an area that grows many vegetables, including beans and tomatoes, and also delicious watermelons and fruits like blueberries. Perhaps one day automation from robots can do most harvesting, but not now. Migrants do this work, who are little more than low wage slaves, unfortunately. Their deaths due to heat are not reported in the news nearly enough.
Here is a report I noticed from Time Magazine via Desdemona Despair describing dozens of Georgia migrant deaths that have taken place from this year’s U.S. heatwaves. It’s not only Georgia farm workers that are affected, though. Any farm worker from California through Texas into the Gulf Coastal states and Florida has to deal with much higher-than-average heat this year. That goes for construction workers and people driving in unairconditioned vehicles, as well. Dozens of deaths are the biggest reason why I’ve categorized Heatwave Chevron as a historic category four if you have been following along on this site this year:
Extreme heat in 2023 endangers America’s workers and economy – Likely dozens of workers have already died from heat exposure in what may be the hottest summer in U.S. history – “Why are we being asked to choose between working and staying alive?” – Desdemona Despair
Migrant workers from Mexico, working on six-month visas, pick squash and peppers on a farm in Lyons, Georgia, in July of 2023. Photo: José Ibarra Rizo / TIME
By Aryn Baker
3 August 2023
GEORGIA (TIME) – Just after dawn on a recent July day in Rochelle, Ga., Silvia Moreno Ayala steps into a pair of sturdy work pants, slips on a long-sleeved shirt, and slathers her face and hands with sunscreen. She drapes a flowered scarf over her wide-brimmed hat to protect her neck and back from the punishing rays of the sun. There isn’t much she can do about the humidity, however. Morning is supposed to be the coolest part of the day, but sweat is already pooling in her rubber boots.
She drinks deeply from a large plastic water bottle, then squeezes out the air until it is flattened enough to tuck into her back pocket. If she is working a blueberry field, she will need her hands for the buckets. If, like today, she is weeding the watermelon fields, she will be carrying tools. Either way, the flattened bottle is her hack for carrying a water supply through the endless furrows. On the days she works the bigger cotton or blueberry fields, it might be hours before she makes it back to the drinks-filled cooler she has left at the field’s edge, and she doesn’t want to run out before then—she has heard the horror stories of farm workers dying in the fields, their desiccated bodies only discovered at the end of the day, when they don’t return with buckets full of fruit and their co-workers go looking for them.
3 August 2023: By 9 a.m. some 90,000 UPS drivers across the country roll out of distribution centers in their iconic brown delivery trucks, ready to transport the clothes, books, frozen fish, furniture, toilet paper, medicines, and overnight mail that an online-shopping obsessed America has come to depend upon. The trucks, primed for efficiency and easy maintenance, are neither air conditioned nor insulated. When the sun beats down, the accumulated heat blasts out the back like an oven with the door open. “Working all day in heat like this is physically painful,” says driver Barkley Wimpee as he pulls his truck out of the Rome, Ga., lot on a recent 92°F morning. Unlike farm workers, drivers can’t take advantage of the pre-dawn cool—deliveries are made during working hours. “By the time we get going, the sun is already blazing,” says Wimpee, 28. “I’m sweating before I leave the parking lot.”
On 16 June 2023, UPS’s 340,000 Teamsters’ union members voted to strike starting August 1, unless their demands for improved working conditions, including air-conditioned vehicles, were included in a new, five-year contract. While climate change was not specifically cited in the union demands, UPS’s unwillingness to adapt to the new realities of global warming by providing its employees with heat-adaptation strategies formed the subtext of the campaign. In the final stages of contract negotiations, the company had agreed to air condition all new vehicles starting in 2024. Video: TIME
Moreno, a 41-year-old farm worker who came to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager, accepts headaches, nausea, muscle cramps and dizzy spells—signs of severe heat stress—as an inevitable part of her summer workday, but by sipping a little tepid water as she goes, she hopes to stave off a worse outcome. “I know people who work watermelons and get so hot they end up in the hospital,” she says. Her doctor warns that she might too one day. He says her kidneys, already damaged by years of working in hot conditions, won’t be able to take much more. Still, she perseveres through the suffocating heat, earning admiration for her toughness and dedication from Stanley Copeland, her employer of 17 years. “I’ve seen her load watermelon trucks. It would be so hot, you’d faint if you went out there,”says Copeland, a third-generation farmer. Like the other workers he employs on his family-owned farm, “I guarantee she can take the heat.”
The numbers say otherwise.
Silvia Moreno Ayala says she loves her work as a field crew leader for a South Georgia family-owned farm, yet her doctor has warned her that this type of work is a threat to her health. Photo: José Ibarra Rizo / TIME
Likely dozens of workers have already died from heat exposure this year in what is shaping up to be the hottest in American history. The death toll started on an abnormally hot and humid New Year’s Day in Florida when a 28-year-old laborer working on a bell-pepper farm died from heat stroke. On 16 June 2023, the first day of the Texas heatwave, with temperatures hovering around 100°F, construction worker Felipe Pascual overheated and died at his worksite near Houston. On 19 June 2023, a 35-year-old lineman repairing an East Texas powerline succumbed to heat exposure on a 96°F day. A day later 66-year-old postal worker Eugene Gates Jr. died while making his rounds in a Dallas neighborhood. While a cause of death has yet to be determined, the heat index that day reached a record-breaking 115°F.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 40 workers die every year from heat, most in outdoor jobs like farming, construction, and package delivery. But the official statistics don’t tell the real story, says Doug Parker, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which oversees working conditions in the U.S. “We’re confident that’s an undercount. Probably a significant undercount,” largely because the role of heat is often overlooked when it comes to issuing death certificates for cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., based consumer rights advocacy group, estimates that extreme heat contributes to between 600 and 2,000 deaths a year, along with 170,000 injuries, making heat one of the three main causes of death and injury in the American workplace. […]
In most American states, you can be fined for leaving a dog outside without water or shade. But with the exception of California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, America’s 2.5 million agricultural workers don’t have the same protections under high heat conditions. Nor do roofers, road construction crews, delivery drivers, or garbage collectors, or almost any other kind of outdoor employment, exposing some 50 million American workers across essential industries. That’s an estimated $100 billion annual toll on the economy in lost productivity, increased workers’ comp premiums, lawsuits, and health care costs. Yet protecting outdoor workers from extreme heat is easy, and in most cases, inexpensive. Public Citizen estimates that requiring employers to provide workers with cool water and periodic shaded rest breaks could prevent at least 50,000 injuries and illnesses a year. […]
“Why are we being asked to choose between working and staying alive?” asks UPS driver Larry McBride, and texts a photo of the temperature reading from the back of his truck. It shows 137.3°F. “This is just going to continue where we are dropping like flies.” [more]
Here are some other “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks, as well as any extreme precipitation reports:
Here is more brand-new July 2023 climatology:
Here is more climate and news from Monday:
(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.)