Just as many parts of the U.S. and Europe have experienced a heat wave resulting in dangerously high temperatures, the Biden administration launched a new website on Tuesday to help the public and government officials better respond to and understand the impacts of extreme heat.
The new website, known as Heat.gov, is designed to serve as an interagency hub for the distribution of federal resources, data and tools related to extreme heat. Heat.gov was launched by the National Integrated Heat Health Information System, or NIHHIS, a collaboration of federal agencies that includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Extreme heat, which is responsible for thousands of hospital visits a year and is the leading cause of weather-related deaths, is expected to grow in severity over the coming years as a result of global warming. In addition to worsening drought conditions and harming the agricultural industry, high temperatures also disproportionately harm older Americans, those who are pregnant, outdoor workers, and those who are experiencing homelessness.
“Extreme heat is a silent killer, yet it affects more Americans than any other weather emergency–particularly our nation’s most vulnerable,” Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor, said in a press release. “Heat.gov is an exciting new and accessible website designed to help everyone become engaged with their community, their state-level government and federal partners, to take actions that can reduce the deadly health impacts of extreme heat.”
During a media briefing unveiling the site on Tuesday, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said that the platform features heat information from a wide range of federal agencies—including interactive maps, forecasts, tips and other resources—to help officials and Americans navigate heat waves.
“It truly is an all-of-government approach, which includes heat forecasts from our weather service at NOAA and information about our Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign that focuses on the most vulnerable populations,” Spinrad said.
The website evolved out of the work of the Interagency Working Group on Extreme Heat, an initiative created to combat the effects of extreme heat on the U.S. that is a part of President Joe Biden’s National Climate Task Force.
Deputy White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said during the briefing that Heat.gov was one of the working group’s top priorities, especially when it came to providing officials and Americans with “decision-ready data that is real time, that meets people where they are, and gives them the information that they need to adapt in real time.”
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who also spoke during the briefing, said the new website can help Americans make better heat-informed decisions in their daily lives. Raimondo said that could look like a mother deciding whether it’s safe for her children to go outside, public health officials determining when to undertake infrastructure projects or farmers choosing when to harvest their crops.
Given the dangers of extreme heat to the U.S. economy and the wellbeing of Americans, Raimondo said that the Commerce Department has been “addressing climate change as a top priority.” She said that the agency estimates that approximately $100 billion is lost each year as a result of outdoor workers not being able to do their jobs because of extreme heat—a figure that is likely to grow as temperatures are projected to rise in the future.
“We need to build a climate-ready nation that’s prosperous in the face of these changes,” Raimondo said. “Heat.gov is just one example, and it’s an essential part of meeting that goal.”