Come on in, the water’s scalding

3 minute read

With hot-tub-temperature oceans and footpath burns, the health effects of a heating planet are multiplying.

Sydney, where TMR Towers is domiciled, just experienced an unseasonably warm winter weekend with temperatures up to a balmy (or perhaps barmy) 25C. It was lovely and, in the context, terrifying.  

Worldwide, July looks like to take prize for hottest month on record, and the southern states of the US have been hit particularly hard, with health professionals seeing more than the usual array of heat-related wobbles.  

In the wild and woolly west state of Arizona, the capital Phoenix has had a straight month of temperatures over 43C, with 15 days over 46.  

That’s led to a surge in presentations of contact burns, which usually occur, says NBC, “when people fall or pass out on sun-scorched pavement and other hot surfaces”.  

The pavement, depending on the surface material, can get up to an astonishing 77C, according to Las Vegas trauma burn physician Dr Syed Saquib, leading to a second-degree burn in a matter of seconds.  

Last northern summer the Arizona Burn Center treated 85 cases of heat-related burns, according to Phoenix’s Valleywise Health. Some patients were admitted with body temperatures over 42C, and seven people died. 

Meanwhile the good folks of Florida on the other side of the country can’t even cool off in the ocean, which has been registering temperatures this week over 38C.  

That’s the typical temperature of a hot tub or jacuzzi.  

If you’re wondering how belief in climate change tracks in those states, here’s a fun map from Yale that breaks down opinion down to the county level on a long list of beliefs and risk perceptions – e.g. “Global warming is happening” and “Worried about global warming”.  

As to the proportion of a state’s population who believe global warming affects the weather, Az and Fl are about average, with 60-65%. Only Wyoming and West Virginia have less than half their population agreeing with that, and you have to go to deepest DC to find an 80% belief.  

On the more controversial question of whether warming is caused by human activities, both Arizona and Florida slip to 56% belief and about two dozen counties between them fall under 50%.  

But that’s 2021 data – maybe there’ll be some movement if you ask them again after this month. Getting a second-degree burn from the footpath could be a searing wake-up call.

As we await the National Health and Climate Strategy, and what will no doubt be a scorching southern summer, the Back Page invites those politicians and media jackasses who still can’t admit we’re cooking the planet to get, quite literally, in the sea.  

Send story tips to to keep your cool.  

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