Skip to main content

Greenburgh Public Library Blog

Weather: Heat Waves

by Christa O'Sullivan on 2019-04-13T09:30:00-04:00 in Science, Adults | Comments

Weather affects us all, whether we like it or not. I’m a librarian here at Greenburgh but as many of my fellow staff members will tell you, I tend to act as the in house meteorologist. Growing up and living in the northeast, the seasons always fascinated me. Factoring in that I am a librarian, I decided to do some research about why weather happens when it does. What better place to work than a library where access to this information is plentiful. In this series of posts I’m going to shed some light on each season and our everyday weather… we know when it happens but do we know why?


Although it may feel like it’s far off, Summer is just around the corner. While it doesn’t officially start until June 21st, we all know that sticky feeling can come much earlier than the end of June. Longer days, warmer nights, flip flops and beachwear are what us tough Northeastern's wait for through our frigid winters. These few short months have everyone flocking outside to the beach and parks, enjoying the beauty that is New York State. However, sometimes we can feel like we’re cooking too much, hence, the dreaded heat wave. Read on to find out what a heat wave is and why it happens.


A heat wave has a fairly simple definition, “period of unusually hot weather that typically lasts two or more days. To be considered a heat wave, the temperatures have to be outside the historical averages for a given area.” This would mean that a heat wave for New York may feel very different than a heat wave in Arizona or Alaska. For New York, this would be 90 degrees or hotter. What’s interesting is that unlike many other weather occurrences, there is no standard definition of a heat wave. Different countries define a heat wave in different ways. This is why sometimes we can have weeks that have a few hot days and even though this might feel like a heat wave, it’s technically not considered one, at least not scientifically. Why do certain weather patterns, like heat waves form? In essence, when the air is trapped. Usually a strong high pressure system forms over a large geographical area. This forces air downward and doesn't not allow it to rise. If there’s nowhere for the air to go, it gets stuck, leaving us feeling the effects. When the air can’t raise, it gets stuck on the ground. With air unable to raise, this doesn’t allow rain or thunderstorms to break the cycle, allowing the air to continually heat up, much like an oven.


Even though heat waves are hard to define, extreme heat can be very taxing to the environment and the human body itself. Much like any other weather phenomenon, there are ways to protect yourself and your health in the sweltering heat.


Tips and Tricks for Beating the Heat:

  • Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
  • Limit strenuous activity that takes place outside. If you do have to be outside for long periods of time, take multiple breaks to rehydrate throughout the day.
  • If outside, wear sunscreen.
  • If you can, stay in climate controlled, air conditioned buildings (such as your local library!)

If you or your children would like to learn more about heat waves and weather in general, check out these great resources:

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Back to Blog Home
This post is closed for further discussion.