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Pennsylvania Braces for Extreme Weather Exacerbated by Climate Change

Pennsylvania Braces for Extreme Weather Exacerbated by Climate Change

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Despite the official start of the summer season on Thursday, June 20, extreme weather events are being exacerbated by climate change in the Keystone State.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh has issued an excessive heat watch for Pennsylvania, including parts of east-central Ohio and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Fiona Lo, climate scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said climate change has increased and will continue to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including heat waves in Pennsylvania.

“So in the future, we’ll expect heat waves will likely be hotter, last longer, and occur more often. And this will happen in Pennsylvania and all over the U.S. and likely over the globe,” Lo said. “This summer is predicted to be warmer than normal for Pennsylvania, and this is due to the shifting weather patterns from climate change.”

According to the National Weather Service, the heat index is expected to reach 100 to 104 this week. The heat advisory remains in effect until 8 p.m. local time on Friday.

Lo points out that in addition to a heat wave in Pennsylvania, more frequent thunderstorms are expected, bringing lightning, heavy rain, hail, and flash flooding. These intense downpours could also lead to worsened flooding throughout the state.

“Since 1958, Pennsylvania and all of the northeast region of the U.S. has experienced 60% increase in heavy rainfall, and that’s the largest in all of the U.S.,” she said.

She added that Atlantic hurricanes have also increased with climate change. Even though hurricanes don’t often hit Pennsylvania, the remnants of a hurricane and tropical storm can be felt up to 100 miles from the eye.

Lo said the consequences of flooding can impact health directly, such as drowning, injuries, or powerlines in the water. For example, flooding can cause sewage to overflow and contaminate water, causing the transmission of diseases.

“Flooding can impact infrastructure. Erosion of roads, bridges, damage and disruption to transportation. And the impact on transportation means you might have less access to basic services such as health and food, ” she explained.

Lo pointed out that Canadian wildfires, which affected the Northeast and Pennsylvania last year, were extreme weather events that impacted air quality. She said in addition to heat stress, flooding, and changes in flowering cycles, warming disrupts agriculture. The strain on infrastructure from heat waves can overload power grids from increased air conditioning use, which may require upgrades for better resilience.