Covering Extreme Heat

Summer in the Northern Hemisphere is on track to be the hottest on record. Here are some ideas to help audiences prepare.

Welcome to Locally Sourced, a biweekly Covering Climate Now newsletter for journalists working on local angles of the climate story. In each edition, we’ll suggest story ideas, offer reporting tips, and share examples to serve as inspiration. Vea la versión en español de “Fuentes Locales.”

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Story Spark: Extreme Heat 

Last summer was the hottest on record, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that summer 2024 will be just as hot, if not hotter. The midwestern and northeastern US are bracing for dangerous heat this week, along with other regions and countries around the world, with record-breaking temperatures expected.

Why It Matters

In addition to being obviously uncomfortable, extreme heat is a public health issue. People with disabilities, older adults, children, pregnant people, unhoused people, incarcerated people, and outdoor workers are some of the groups most vulnerable.

Raising awareness about the dangers of extreme heat and protections against it help audiences stay safe. Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US and globally, killing more people than hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

Extreme heat also increases the likelihood of drought, wildfires, and hurricanes. It threatens water supplies, energy and transportation infrastructure, and agriculture, impacting crops and livestock.

Reporting Tips 

NBC Miami’s meteorologist and climate change reporter Steve MacLaughlin offers tips for reporting extreme heat stories:

Make the climate connection. Extreme heat events are tangible examples of the impact of climate change. Climate Central shares scientifically vetted language you can use to highlight the climate connection: “More frequent and intense extreme heat — the deadliest natural hazard in the US — is a direct result of a warming planet.”

Provide context when reporting record heat. Record highs are now so common that they can lose impact. Highlight how many records have been set recently. Note how many locations in your area set records.

Help audiences understand dew points and feels-like temperatures. These metrics, often found in weather apps, are more important than relative humidity and real temperatures during a heat wave. They provide a better indication of comfort and health risks. Some good examples: 10 Tampa Bay explains feels-like temperature (bonus: it explains how and why people sweat) and 6 South Florida explains dew point.

Include a snap interview. Conduct a quick interview via Zoom to add expertise or people’s voices to enrich your reporting. Interview a local resilience officer or someone in charge of a cooling center. Talk to people most vulnerable to extreme heat, like outdoor workers, and include cooling options for those without A/C.

Use Climate Central graphics. Climate Central provides camera-ready, heat-related graphics and stats for hundreds of cities, available in English and Spanish. Use their graphics and forecasts to make your stories more visually interesting.

Story Examples 


Key facts and visuals. Climate Central’s Summer 2024 Package, Extreme Heat Toolkit, and Climate Shift Index daily temperature attribution tool.

Reporting recommendations. The Global Heat Health Information Network’s extreme heat reporting guidance

Voices & sources. Find heat health experts or connect with climate scientists via SciLine’s expert matching service (US journalists only). The American Association of State Climatologists has contact information for state and regional climatologists, who provide weather and climate information to the public.

Before We Go…

Please send us your local climate stories. We’d love to consider them for Locally Sourced and our media trainings and social platforms. Email local[at]coveringclimatenow[dot]org.

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