Yes, there is a heatwave going on in Northern Europe this week – or at least, to them it’s a heatwave. To those of us who live in Texas, it’s just a normal summer, with temperatures in the 90s and reaching three digits. Supercilious Europeans, Brits and Canadians, and lunkheaded Americans like perennial tween know-it-all Taylor Lorenz are forever chiding us about our excessive air conditioning in homes, government buildings and offices, little recking that basically, most of the United States is on the same latitude as the Mediterranean and North Africa – and without efficient air conditioning, large swathes of the southern states would just plain old be unlivable – and no, in the South it’s not a dry heat, but a soggy and humid exercise in physical torment. So I do feel for those suffering Europeans and Brits, I really do. My brother and sister and I spent the summer of 1976 in Britain, which turned out to have been one of the hottest on record, rather like the heatwave this year. We – accustomed to So-Cal summers didn’t at first really grok how unaccustomed the British public was to this kind of summer heat, what with the grass in the parks dying for want of water.

Us: Don’t they, ummm, water the grass regularly? We came from a place where lawn-watering was essential – no, it usually wasn’t necessary in Britain, where the rain fell regularly like clockwork, as it would later on in that summer, when the weather got back to something like normal for that part of the world. It was so hot that we were actually served ice in the soft drinks. Smart-ass younger brother to waitress in a Brighton fast-food place called The Great American Hamburger, regarding a lonely ice cube swimming in a glass of Coke: Gee, aren’t you afraid you’ll be struck by lightning, putting ice in the drinks? Teenage waitress, deadpan: Yes, I live in terror of it. Exchange in another pub, between two elderly habitues over pints. #1: Guess I had better drink this before it evaporates. #2: Arrrrr … then t’would rain beer… It remained a mild puzzlement to us, why everyone was going round with their parched tongues hanging out and turning all shades of pink sunburn, while clad in wrinkled and slightly out of fashion summer clothes. It seemed like quite a normal summer, for us.
For myself, I have only lived in two places which were endurable in the summer, but for existence of window units and/or central air. One of them is Texas, the other was Seoul, ROK, which compounded the misery by being bitter cold in the winter, with storms that blew in, straight off Siberia. Seriously, Willis Carrier ought to be sanctified, for his work in making life bearable in large chunks of this dirtball.

Granted – there are also large parts of the dirtball which are normally perfectly comfortable for humans in the summer – most times. California, where I grew up, was one of them; temperate, cooled off at night, lived in houses with large shady trees all the way around, and windows situated to catch whatever cooler breeze was going. Athens, Greece was the same way; although it did get hot in the blazing sunshine, my apartment there had tall windows, high ceilings, and take advantage of a refreshing ocean breeze. Sit in the shade, caressed by a wandering breeze – all hunky-dory. In a place where the local architecture makes allowances, with tall windows, shady verandas, and easy airflow, a warm summer is endurable. For a year in Sacramento, I could get by with fans, blowing in the cooler night air, and closing up the windows and drawing the curtains. Ogden, Utah was a slightly different kettle of fish – it was hot in the summer, but dry enough that a swamp cooler did the trick. Northern Japan was almost exactly the opposite: relatively mild. High seventies in summer, which would have been endurable, but for 100% saturation. A glass of ice water would sweat a puddle of water around it, almost equal to the contents of the glass, imperfectly-dried clothing developed mold spots, and two minutes out of a cold shower, one was dripping with sweat. Only one summer in Spain, where I spent six of them, was truly awful, for heat.
I do truly hope that the experience of this summer will make Euros and Brits a bit more understanding of American need for air conditioning, although likely they will forget, as soon as the heatwave passes. As for Taylor Lorenz – I dare her to go without AC, first. Double-dog dare, as an example to us all.
Discuss as you wish, and can be amusing.

12 thoughts on “Heatwave”

  1. I lived in Panama for a couple of years, and it makes South Texas seem temperate. I certainly never got used to it, but the locals seem ok. They literally never, ever, ever wear shorts, so it’s clear that people can in fact deal with extreme conditions.
    I confess I don’t understand the stories like the thousands of deaths in Paris during heat waves–what explains that? Clearly that couldn’t have happened in historical times. Is it due to more recent construction having no regard to allowing for extreme conditions?
    Upstate New York has the most perfect summers, I have to say. For a few glorious months of the year, it’s absolutely divine. You just have to deal with the 6 months of winter, and the abandoned downtowns, is all…

  2. Washington DC, if you believe some historians, used to be considered a hardship post requiring extra pay in European diplomatic services. I lived in Alexandria VA and worked in Springfield in the summer of ’69, and it was hellish. But no more hellish than summer at home in Memphis would have been. Both areas are ‘humid sub-tropical.’

    I experienced a nice week in SoCal once–the sort of mild warm days and mild cool nights mentioned–but other than that the place had little to attract me, and I’ve never been convinced that multi-multi-millions of people in the Southwest was sustainable (if you’ll pardon the jargon). (Speaking of latitudes, I was in Rome briefly in the summer of ’63 and it was stifling.)

    I still wonder that my German paternal grandparents found the heat and humidity here bearable in the 1910s when they arrived. I know that w/o AC the Southland could never have fully entered the American Century, and I’d be looking to remove to the hills.

    The Euros have adapted to their (apparently stable) climate regime and we have done the same here. Nobody should gloat.

  3. I live in Canada, near Lake Ontario. When it gets stinking hot &humid, I turn on the a/c, say around 90 degrees and 90% humidity. High 80s is fine as long as it’s not soggy humid. Granted, not TX or LA weather, but we don’t melt like the Europeans do. Way better than the minus 30 we can get hit with in the winter.

  4. Here in upper flyover country the weather is what you make of it. This Summer has actually been quite pleasant, save for a few days over 90. It is always humid here in the Summer so it smarts when it gets over 90.

    That is how Summers are, generally, around here and always have been. Shoulder seasons, those between Summer and Winter, account for the majority of time. It gets old. And Winter to me is a very long three months, but we make the best of it, enjoying the days over 30 more than most would.

    I will end up being a snowbird. Mrs. DFM has already been doing so for a week here and there in Winter so the opening shots on that topic are fired (she can work from anywhere, and I can’t, sadly. At least for now).

  5. I took my kids to England in 1982 and we experienced London at 105 degrees. The windows in one restaurant were painted shut. That was Simpson’s on the Strand. The weather cooled off and the trip was fun for all. Here in Arizona we replaced our A/C last year and keep the thermostat at 78, which feels cool coming into the house from outside. I’ve considered getting a dual fuel generator in case of long blackouts. So far I’m waiting to see if the state stays reddish before I decide.

  6. }}} Washington DC

    As I recall, DC is mostly reclaimed swampland… so it was no doubt pretty bad when it got hot — lots of water for mosquito development, as well as humidity in general.

    I live in North Central FL, and, as I understand it, for the USA, this area and around Houston are the worst for general weather, in terms of heat+humidity. Typical humidity STARTS at 70% here and goes up. I don’t know what someplace with higher temps but lower humidity is like. I gather at least there, your sweat evaporates and does its cooling job.

    I was born in FL — one of the very few “native Floridians” in my generation — back when the population was a lot lower… only with the advent of relatively inexpensive AC did anyone really want to move to FL… That development timed up well with the collapse of industry in the “Rust Belt”, so many moved from up there to down here, with the result that Florida, once middle of the pack, passed NY for the “third most populous state” in the USA about 10y ago.

    In 1950, FL pop was 2.7m (1.8%), NY state pop was 14.7m (9.9%) , against a US pop of 148m

    Current FL pop is 22.2m (6.5%), NY state pop is 19.2 (5.7%) , against a US pop of 338m

    FL as a percentage is >3x what it was, NY is almost half. Or FL is 8x larger, while NY is only 1.5x larger, against a national increase of >2x.

    This is largely due to AC, I believe.

  7. “This is largely due to AC, I believe.”
    Nah. Andy Cuomo used to like to blame the weather, toom but it’s the government’s fault, plain and simple. When people leave, they don’t say “I just can’t stand the winters”, except sometimes in the cases of retirees, they say that Albany Democrats have destroyed the state.
    My theory has always been that the decline of the state, and of the county in general to be honest, perfectly lines up with “one man one vote” Supreme Court decrees that ripped political power from non-urban areas. But there’s a lot of moving parts, of course, there’s no one determining factor.

  8. I’ve read that the carbon footprint from heating homes in the winter is greater than the one from cooling them in the summer. I don’t think we in Texas should give up our air conditioning until the Yankees gave spent a winter without heat.

  9. ” I don’t think we in Texas should give up our air conditioning until the Yankees gave spent a winter without heat.”
    Well, with the idiotic “climate action plan” NY is implementing you’ll get your wish in just a few years…

  10. Brian, if New York tries to force people there to forgo heat in the winter, don’t you imagine politicians riding in tumbrels? The police have to live themselves and have families. I can imagine them clearing the way to assure the tumbrels aren’t impeded by traffic.

  11. Pettifogger,
    Probably not because they’re the same people that keep voting for them after every other of their disastrous policies. The government of New York has decided that since a few thousand people can make money by trading pieces of paper back and forth, no one else in the state needs to make a living any other way. The only ones that count are the ones voting with their feet.

  12. Pettifogger:
    No, because they won’t sit still for that. They will have arranged for armed retainers independent of the police force, though perhaps still paid for by their subjects.

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