I need to preface this, as I have developed the power to foresee comments, by emphasizing that I have enjoyed every single minute of this long vacation I have been fortunate enough in circumstances to take. Would do again in a heartbeat and would not trade it for anything. Also, this is not a post about beverage ice, which no longer requires discussion because I am so unbelievably correct on that point.

It's hot here, guys. Balls hot.

Every day of this trip I've sweat through all of my clothes and peeled them off at the end of the day wondering if I jumped in a lake and just don't remember doing so. Here I was expecting that famous Adriatic / Mediterranean climate, and instead it's eerily similar to "pit stains by noon" season in Chicago. So I am not surprised to see a headline like "Europe’s summer was so hot that tropical flamingos laid eggs for the first time in 15 years." There have been record highs everywhere. It was 95 in Prague. 97 in Vienna. And reader, I shit you not, my car thermometer (for what that's worth) registered 37 Celsius in Slovenia of all places, which is over 100 F. That isn't "hot for Europe;" that's just hot.

The highs matter here because this part of the world is, very reasonably and logically, not equipped to handle "Balls Hot." It's never this hot here, so why should they bother air conditioning everything or organize any of their routine around it being literally too hot to move for part of the day. It would be like building a home with a double-thick door up on stilts on the off-chance that it is ever -50 F in Chicago. It just wouldn't make sense.

No, things are set up quite logically for an area where summer means "it might hit the low 80s, but don't worry because if it does we can just sit in the shade until it passes." I can promise you that the sipping a barely-cold beverage in the shade when it's 95 is, well, it's still pretty fucking hot. That's the difference between peaking at 85 and peaking nearer to 100.

And it raises the troubling question of what precisely the effects will be if 95 degree summers become the new normal in places that have not previously experienced it. It's not automatic that it will become normal, of course. This year could be anomalous, and it's not unprecedented (note the "in 15 years" in the WaPo headline). But what happens when a region prepared to handle Hot is suddenly upgraded to Hot-Hot?

The thing is, this kind of heat kills people. Talk about the Mediterranean breeze all you want, but elderly people in un-air conditioned apartments are not all gonna make it if they had to experience 2-3 months of the mid-90s. I have lived in one place where summer means that it's 98 every single day from Memorial Day to late September (Athens, GA) and dealing with it requires building a lifestyle around it. Everything is air conditioned to "Ice Station Zebra" levels because you couldn't get anything done while the sun is up otherwise. And of course it helps a ton that Americans do most of their place-to-place travel in an air conditioned car. So although it is definitely a hot, sweaty experience, it's survivable. People in Texas and Arizona are getting used to 110 being a long-term normal high and they survive the same way.

If Europe's continental climate turns into the American Midwest – the brutal extremes of summer heat and winter cold – patterns of energy consumption are likely to change in ways that will require beefing up infrastructure. Many homes and apartments here are far too old for structural changes to deal with hotter weather – I get the sense that a place like Budapest or Prague has the buildings it has, and isn't about to tear them down and build new ones.

But nothing changing isn't going to be an option. Believe me, the fat, pampered American and German tourists were not the only ones reeling from the heat. The locals looked equally stunned, and neither group seemed to find "Sit for a second and have a warm Coke" satisfactory as a solution. America has exported a lot of things to Europe, and a lot of it has been questionably useful (Burger King, Lil' Pump, etc). I hope we don't add our sometimes insane climate to the list.

30 thoughts on “HOT HOT HEAT”

  • Well if it's any consolation, once ocean circulation patterns get fucked up by global warming and the Gulf Stream stops bringing warmer weather to Europe, it'll balance out?

    *weak smile*

  • Chicago, 1995.

    The 1995 Chicago heat wave was a heat wave which led to 739 heat-related deaths in Chicago over a period of five days.[1] Most of the victims of the heat wave were elderly poor residents of the city, who could not afford air conditioning and did not open windows or sleep outside for fear of crime.[2] The heat wave also heavily impacted the wider Midwestern region, with additional deaths in both St. Louis, Missouri[3] and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[4]

  • This is going to be a continuing problem. What happens in Houston when though they are used to 110F it's now 125F? What happens to the Amazon when it's too hot for the jungle to properly trap CO2? And let's not talk about movement of rainfall. Let's just not. It's too depressing.

    A very, very minor point. 37C = 98.6F.

  • Yeah, you aren't going to get a big, tall glass of anything filled with ice in Europe. Things will change, but the problem will be the energy consumption. Grids aren't currently set up for extravagant use of energy, and that is what air conditioning is. It will be interesting to see how people adapt. Maybe the humans 100 years from now will be fully nocturnal creatures because night will be the only tolerable time to move about–and everyone will have to live underground or in caves in cliffsides?

    Thank God Trump and Pence are thinking ahead with SPACE FORCE.

  • I've experienced some of this in Sicily. A good friend owns a bed and breakfast as well as a few short-term apartments for folks visiting the town for Pasqua, etc… In the "old town" many of the buildings several centuries old. Nice places. Fully renovated, but obviously no way to add ducting to cool them. The best solution he's come up with so far are the wall-mounted combination a/c-heat pump units. They only work for a room, maybe two, as opposed to an entire 3,000 sq/ft America style sprawl, but install is quick, they are fairly efficient, and require minimal modification to the buildings. Mostly a few drilled holes to mount, and run some piping to the outside. Not perfect, but effective compared to the alternative. I would hope to see them become more common in older buildings as the climate change that totallyisnthappeningandwasmadeupbyChina wargle bargle bargle…continues to heat things up.

  • Wait a minute! You think Burger King is a good thing? Or is there some undetected irony at work?
    Anyway, yes, it's too darn hot, no thanks to that great climate change hoax. And you ain't seen nothin yet.

  • If you are a baby boomer or older you probably remember our future in outer space. We'd be living on the Moon, Mars, Venus and even in the asteroid belt. We'd all live in single family homes insulated to keep in the air and protect us from meteorites. If dad wanted to go to work or mom wanted to go shopping, they'd go through an airlock to the space car which was similarly protected from the harshness of space. I think there were even little league baseball diamonds in protected glass habitats.

    Well, it happened, except not in outer space. For years, the sunbelt was effectively uninhabitable, and the only way to get someone to do any heavy lifting in the heat of the day was under threat of torture or starvation. Through the 1950s and 1960s we rolled out air conditioning and climate controls. The extra insulation came in with the 1970s and 1980s along with automotive air conditioning. We called it the Sun Belt, sort of the Asteroid Belt, but down here on earth.

    Now it turns out there is another old science fiction trope at play. The Sun Belt, by increasing our power demand, has been growing. It's sort of terraforming in reverse with earth-like climate being replaced with something much hotter and less pleasant. How long before outdoor workers require space suits with their own climate control? We're all slathering with sunblock for now, and the dress code has changed to accept what was once considered barely decent as working attire.

    At least we aren't living in tubes. Yet.

  • The subtle signs appeared in northwest Connecticut forty years ago: cold-loving sugar maples slowed their propagation and began retreating north, while heat-tolerant Norway maples increased. Starting early this decade, old houses with excellent mechanical ventilation could no longer cope with August heat and humidity. Suddenly anyone with a couple of hundred bucks bought an air conditioner. And recent summers now endanger the elderly too frail to operate their own homes.
    The next changes will be fast and furious.

  • This has been going on for a while.
    I was in Paris in 2010 and it was 93 for several days. Parisians kept shaking their heads and saying "This never happens."
    Guess it does now.

  • We experienced the same thing in Vienna last summer. Many places there are not air conditioned for the reasons you cite above but it was in the mid 90s when we were there. And a few of the natives we met said the same thing: "We're not air conditioned because it's rarely warmer than the low 80's here but this has been a very unusual summer." I guess the unusual is now the usual. Good thing we dropped out of that unnecessary Paris Climate Accord.

  • Now that I've listened to your podcast, Ed, I can't not read your posts and hear your voice in my head.

  • We moved from Austin, Texas to Berlin last year. This has been the most miserable summer of my entire life. My (brand new) apartment was a stifling oven. The UBahn was a rolling sauna. I couldn't sleep, eat, or function. I'd lay on the floor all day under a fan and feel my will to live slowly seep out of me through every drop of sweat.

  • Chicago is your example of an American city with miserable summers? I spent a summer in Chicago once and the weather seemed pretty lovely. AndI grew up in West Michigan, so it's not like my basis for comparison was the deep south. DC on the other hand, is miserable. This year has been cooler than normal but we're getting torrential rains one out of every two days – maybe more, and that has been going on for about 5 weeks.

    All summer long I either bike 9 miles one way or walk 1.3 miles one way to and from the nearest metro stop to commute. It's doable, though I will admit that my office is climate controlled. So is my house, though we run the AC as little as possible. Exertion in the heat can be accomplished without harm if you're reasonably fit and not a senior citizen. It is an issue for the elderly for sure.

    I'm sure this is climate change related, just like the rain we're getting in the mid Atlantic and the fires out west. It's probably only going to get worse, unfortunately.

  • I'm currently house-hunting in Cleveland, OH. (Yep, I'm back) Virtually none of the houses under 50K (my price range) have AC. What I do see are room AC's everywhere. So far this summer that's sufficient, but it won't be long where it won't be. I'm predicting lots of central air installers' jobs here in the future.

  • I'd be using geothermal and solar if I had an acre or two of property–as is I'm using HEAAP and pellets. Hmmmm, that makes me think:

    Will Hope and Prayers burn better than Heaps of Pellets? I'm thinkin' truckloads of Wholly Babbles–mostly unused–up for grabs…

  • Yeah, we first visited Chicago in '99 or '00, in July, and I recall starting off every day by (ironically) proclaiming "GOD DAMN THIS HEAT". It seemed pleasant compared to Memphis or the Deep South where I growed up (sic), but I guess things are changing. It's goddamn hot here now, but it's (Elvis') Death Week, and we expect it. I kinda worry about the British tourists though.

  • Yup, the *really* fun part is the resurgence of nigh- forgotten diseases. A few years back in the South I pointed out that the only reason we’re not seeing yellow fever for 11 months out of the year is only by the sheer grace of whatever minor diety of your choice. It used to be endemic, google the Memphis outbreak if you’re good on sleep for a week.

  • The next part that's going to be interesting–and by "interesting" I mean something that historians will write tedious books about–is when the average temperatures rise enough in the Middle East to render Dubai and Saudi Arabia uninhabitable. Unlike Bangladesh and Tuvalu, the KSA has enough money to do something about the problem. We can hope that it's something relatively peaceful like "buy half of Mongolia" but I sure as hell wouldn't count on something that reasonable.

  • Flying Squirrel says:

    The electrician's main tool for my spouse's house rewiring in Germany was a jackhammer. I imagine air conditioning in a country with entirely hot-water-based heating is installed with explosives. But not needed for a few decades– houses are concrete or something-block, and well insulated. Open the windows at night, close them in the morning. It'll get you through heat waves, until the entire subcontinent becomes permanently tropical. They don't actually do this yet, mind you– windows aren't to be left open at night– but they'll figure it out. And they'll upgrade the train and bus air conditioning in a few years (I hope), because they actually do that stuff with infrastructure there. But the real secret is to not drink really cold sugary drinks because it screws up your thermal metabolism.

  • Apartments in limestone/ salt mines? 55 degrees fahrenheit 24/7. Though if the grim meathook future continues to unfold, there'll be fewer of us to suffer.

  • Smeagol is hardly the only cave dweller in Tolkien's fiction, BTW, anyone retouched Gollum with a MAGA hat? Or the SCROTUS' head on Gollum's body? He'd look like it belonged there.

  • Any building can be retrofit with central air if you don't mind exposed ducts, and drilling holes in floors and walls to run them. Yes, they're pretty unsightly but compared to dying of heat exhaustion maybe that's not so bad?

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