It’s so hot in Arizona that people are suffering burns after falling on the ground

It’s been a record-breaking summer around the world and in the US in terms of heat. Where I live we’ve mostly been spared, but because I’m in the PNW I know that “smoke season”–that new West Coast mainstay combining high temps with hazy, hazardous air–will be with us from August to late October. The heat has been especially brutal in the Southwest this year. Temperatures in Phoenix Arizona have exceeded 110 degrees Fahreinheit for 26 days straight. Extreme heat is a health hazard on its own, but if you happen to fall on hot pavement, you could burn your skin. That’s happening in Arizona–people are getting first and second degree burns and even needing to go to the hospital.

Temperatures in Arizona have climbed as high as 119 degrees — superheating the ground so intensely that people are suffering burns from coming into contact with it.

And in Maricopa County, some people have even been hospitalized from burns they sustained from falling on the ground.

Every bed at the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health is full, Dr. Kevin Foster, director of burn services, told CNN — and one-third of the patients were injured by falling outside on the hot pavement.

“Summers are our busy season, so we anticipate that this sort of thing is going to happen. But this is really unusual — the number of patients that we’re seeing and the severity of injuries — the acuity of injuries is much higher,” Dr Foster told CNN.

Temperatures of 118 degrees are high enough to burn the skin, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with blistering and second-degree burns being suffered at 131 degrees.

“The temperature of asphalt and pavement and concrete and sidewalks in Arizona on a warm sunny day or summer afternoon is 180 degrees sometimes. I mean, it’s just a little below boiling, so it’s really something,” Foster told CNN.

[From People]

I slipped and fell outdoors two years ago and broke my kneecap. I was stuck on the ground for a couple minutes before some very kind people pulled me up onto a chair. I dread to think what might have happened if the ground beneath me was 180 degrees. This kind of health hazard seems likely to affect the unhoused more than other populations, as they will have a harder time avoiding hot pavement. I hope there are air-conditioned shelters available in Phoenix, and cities across America should start prioritizing cooling centers if they aren’t already. Hot pavement is also bad for pets and animals–if the sidewalk or pavement is too hot for bare feet, it’s too hot for dogs, coyotes, or any other animal that isn’t well-adapted to hot surfaces. It’s really scary that the ground itself is becoming hazardous in some places because of extreme heat. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies have quietly abandoned their climate pledges. I’ve been feeling a lot of eco-grief lately and I know I’m not alone. But it feels better to cry about it than to live in denial about what’s happening.

Photos credit: Balazs Simon on Pexels and Sam Williams on Unsplash

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25 Responses to “It’s so hot in Arizona that people are suffering burns after falling on the ground”

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  1. Kitten says:

    “I’ve been feeling a lot of eco-grief lately and I know I’m not alone. But it feels better to cry about it than to live in denial about what’s happening.”

    Same, Carina, and thank you for covering something so important because the collective denial is gonna kill us all in the end.

    I have to wonder about the 85 people who suffered burns and the 7 that died. Were they unhoused? Elderly? Poor? Because marginalized people will suffer the most from climate change.

  2. BlueNailsBetty says:

    “The floor is lava” suddenly doesn’t seem funny.

    Also, to demonstrate how seriously Republicans are taking this, Mike Pence has announced he wants to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And by serious I mean not at all.

    • BeanieBean says:

      What??? For heaven’s sake, when you’ve got people getting serious burns from falling on the pavement, you’ve got a climate crisis!! This is just wild to me, burning your skin after a fall on the pavement! All those people who retire to AZ & NM & FL–it’s not safe for them! And likely never will be again. Especially if the Republicans continue on their flat earth course of thinking.

      • BlueNailsBetty says:

        Yep to all of this. What baffles me is this: Dead people don’t go to work. Dead people don’t pay money to campaign grifts. Dead people don’t pay taxes (of which a lot ends up lining the pockets of friends of elected officials).

        Why on earth don’t the grifting, greedy Republicans want people to be alive, healthy, and able to work? They NEED these people to give them money but they do everything they can to make it harder for people to give them money.

        It makes no sense.

    • olliesmom says:

      They are all in the pocket of big oil and big industry and they are living for NOW. Grab as much cash and power as you can while you can. They think that they will be ok. I think that they are in for a rude awakening because this is bigger than anything that humans have experienced on Earth and there will be no escaping it after awhile no matter how much money you have. Their money will be useless.

      We shouldn’t expect anything less from them. Look at how they reacted to the pandemic. And their backwards views on evolution and science in general.

  3. DoctahGeeZee says:

    Fellow PNW celebitchy here who dreads smoke season. Oh how I wish it would rain a substantial amount to help extinguish and not start new fires. The big trees aren’t used to these heat domes/dryness and are so stressed you can see it in needles/leaves.

    Our planet is screaming at us to change but sadly it seems most humans want to ignore her.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That’s it, you want the big rains but at the same time, in the summer, you tend to get the thunder boomers that come with lightning, which ignite the fires, and there we go. We’ve had a couple fires locally & I got to watch the air tankers land on the Columbia River, suck up water, and take off again, round & round, for hours. Plus the helicopters dipping in the river, flying over the fire, then circling back to do it again. Fascinating! But scary for the people who had to evacuate.

    • Twin Falls says:

      @Doc – Same. I’m dreading the return of the smoke.

      The heat, the storms, the flooding, the mass dying of coral reefs. It all feels very this is the end/beginning of a lot of suffering globally.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Have you read about how hot the water is in south Florida? It’s crazy, in the 100s!!! There’ll be massive fish die-offs, as well as coral die-offs.

  4. Nicole says:

    What also bad is that there are so many climate denying corporate interests that even though the sun is plentiful in AZ solar cannot be successfully leveraged to help consumers (and thus help climate goals). They don’t have any real significant solar initiatives, nor are they doing any sort of pavement remediation. There are TONS of heat islands. If you drive from LA to Vegas, there is a stretch of pavement that is PINK! We have the tools we just don’t use them.

  5. olliesmom says:

    They live in a desert.

    The experts used to project major climate change effects arriving in 2050. And then they moved it up to 2030. Now they aren’t projecting a future year anymore – IT IS HERE EARLIER THAN EXPECTED. We are living it.

    I’m usually a pretty optimistic person, but I think that there is no turning back now. If we can’t get everyone on board and fast, it’s too late. Many citizens, countries and industries have been trying, but it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the accelerated climate change/damage that we have done and continue to do to this beautiful planet that we all call home. There is nowhere to go to escape.

    I’m old. I feel bad for all of the young people that I know. Every aspect of their lives will be devastated.

    I guess at this point we make plans for ourselves as best as we can personally. But what do you do and what do you know what to do? How do you prepare when you really don’t have any idea exactly what is coming?

    I can see people clamoring to move up to the northern states. We might have our own border crisis. Do we let them all in or do we build walls?

  6. Pandora says:

    I live in the PNW as well and so far I am thankful, and yes dreading August. But when I lived in Oklahoma, in 2011 there was a whole month with temps over 100F, and many days into 110s.. Our landlord was worried for her AC, so my roommate and I set it to 88F and walked around in underwear. Yes, in my 30s, and he was not my boyfriend.

    This is not new for Arizona, I don’t know why it is being pushed into news now.

  7. Lizzie says:

    And on a related topic, ocean currents are expected to collapse due to climate change.

  8. KBeth says:

    Can confirm Phoenix is positively miserable.

  9. AZBlue says:

    I’ve lived in Arizona on and off my whole life.

    People have been getting 2nd/3rd degree burns from asphalt forever during the summer. However, rent went from $600 to $1500 per month in the span of several years. The bigger problem is that housing costs and the fentanyl pandemic have grown to a place where the elderly and drug-addicted are vulnerable to falls.

  10. Minnieder says:

    I’m in the southeast, and we’ve had (and will continue to have) temps in the high 90’s. I keep every curtain and blind closed around the clock, it really does help. But it’s a misery outside and I feel for AZ!!!

  11. Bumblebee says:

    Everyone needs to move to the mountains. We moved from DC to WV. There are lots and lots of trees, shade, and regular rain. No hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, droughts, forest fires, excessive heat. It’s not perfect, but it’s safer from climate change than most of the US. And driving on the roads is kind of like being on a roller coaster!

    • Waitwhat says:

      Interesting! I moved to AZ from PA (raised in Ohio) 20 years ago for my ex’s job. I’ve never felt at home out here, though, and started contemplating a move to WVA since they began offering incentives for people to move there when everyone started to work from home. I’ve visited the state several times and it is beautiful. I better make up my mind soon, though, before people up north start building walls to keep people out (eyeroll).

  12. SpankyB says:

    I was in Phoenix once when it was 120 degrees. Luckily(?) there was a hot breeze blowing that instantly dried my sweat so I wasn’t a sweaty mess. I drank so much water, just constantly guzzling it and never urinated. I was drinking it in and sweating it out at the same time. That was the last time I went to AZ in the summer.

  13. Joany says:

    This makes me so sad. ” Eco- grief “indeed! Thank you for writing about it. I don’t actually know how to maintain any sense of optimism for change.

    How do you all keep your anxieties at bay?

    • DeeSea says:

      @Joany I have the same question/quandary: How can a person stay aware, engaged, and solutions-focused without completely breaking down emotionally? I am by nature a very sensitive person, and I have to make a conscious (and effortful) decision every single day to not crumble into a heap of despair because I know that despair helps no one, especially our poor suffering planet. But I do allow myself micro-moments of deeply feeling the eco-grief because it feels unhealthy to not express it. It’s all very complicated and confusing, and I’m constantly trying to find productive yet healthy ways to navigate it.

  14. Rebecca Siegel says:

    Phoenix native here. My son is 7 and most days we don’t leave the house. If we go out once, we’re both exhausted for the rest of the day. Just had our first monsoon, thankfully, but now it’s 118 paired with humidity! It’s not just the homeless, it’s people living with no ac who are dying. The heat has gotten noticeably worse, and I’ve lived here for over 40 years. When I was a preteen, we had a 122 degree day that broke all the records. Now we are breaking the records every day. Btw “eco grief” is a term I didn’t know but definitely identify with now!

  15. bisynaptic says:

    Eco-grief describes it, perfectly.