As a robust heat wave continues to roast much of the country with high heat and humidity, officials with the National Weather Service (NWS) are warning the heat could be deadly.
According to the NWS, each year, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia, which occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day with temperatures in the 70s. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The younger the child the more severe the effects because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate its internal temperature.
The sun’s shortwave radiation heats objects that it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to over 200°F. These objects, which can include the dashboard, steering wheel, or child seat heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle. In a matter of minutes, the combination of shortwave and longwave radiation can heat a car to a deadly hot reading.
Sadly, already 17 children have been killed this summer by adults who left them behind in hot cars. Manslaughter charges are pending against some of these parents today.