Beach Battles Loom in CA and FL As Temps Rise, So Does Dust From CA’s Salton Sea

Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperature anomalies.  Image: WeatherBell via The Washington Post.

Unusually high heat has struck Florida (and the Gulf Coast too) just as cities across the state are struggling to keep their beaches from becoming overcrowded due to the summertime temps, and the Governor weights opening up the state again In California, there was record heat over the weekend, with temperatures pushing 100 degrees and many people lacking proper air conditioning stuck at home.  In the desert, communities needed more than masks and 6-feet of physical distancing due to high rates of asthma and respiratory complications caused by the evaporation of the Salton Sea and the spread of coronavirus.

Why This Matters:  The hot summer-like temps in SoCal and Florida are not making it easy for local officials trying to keep people safe during the shelter in place orders.  Tens of thousands flocked to beaches in both states.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is already warning there’s a 75 percent chance that 2020 will set the record for the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880.  We have noted the risk to the healthcare system that could be caused by storms and flooding during the coronavirus pandemic, but heat illness and respiratory problems caused by heat-related poor air quality could be a huge problem in some parts of the country too — just as they are trying hard to flatten the curve.  

Florida Heat and Beyond

High temps in the south are caused in no small part by extremely high water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which is a very bad sign for hurricane season and for tornado outbreaks too.  Last Monday, according to the Capital Weather Gang of The Washington Post, Miami’s temperature topped out at 97 degrees, which broke three records, not just for the day and the month but for the earliest in the year — by more than 5 weeks — Miami has been that hot.  Indeed, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center in Miami tweeted about the heat saying that April was so hot, that its temps would have been tied with last year as the second hottest May ever.  But it was not just Florida that was stiflingly hot. Last week, Corpus Christi, Tex., hit a record high of 96 on Monday, smashing the previous record for April 20 by seven degrees, Houston was a record of 92 degrees on Easter Sunday, and New Orleans was 90 degrees on April 9, the earliest on record the city has been that warm.

California Air

On Friday, about 40,000 people visited Newport Beach, but lifeguards said most of them appeared to keep to the proper distance.  Meanwhile, in the desert to the east, the water wars over Colorado River water are also heating up, and just as the Salton Sea’s toxic dust makes the citizens of the region more at risk to coronavirus.  For years, “clouds of salty, alkaline toxic dust containing heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and powdery-fine particulates” have been tied to asthma, respiratory diseases and cancer, which now exacerbate the community’s fight to slow the virus. The Salton Sea is a “lake” that was formed between 1905 and 1907 when the Colorado River burst through poorly-built irrigation dam near Yuma, Arizona —  it is now drying up.

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