Environmental factors could threaten the health of Arizonans


A woman covers her face while waiting for the light rail in a shady spot in Tempe. (Photo by Devin Conley/ Crokite News)

Editor’s note

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that climatologists predicted that Arizona would be unlivable by 2050. The climatologists did not use the word unlivable, but said that a changing climate would have substantial effects on demand. water by 2060. The Vice news site referenced this report in an article that used the word “unlivable”. The story also referenced a 2012 report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Lake Mead’s water level, incorrectly stating that it is at its lowest since 2011. According to USBR readings, the level dropped much lower in 2016 and continues to fluctuate, but is now higher than 2016. History has been updated to reflect the correct information. Customers who ran the earlier version are advised to run the fix which can be found here.

PHOENIX – If you think it’s hot right now, wait: Some climatologists predict that global warming in Arizona will have a substantial effect on water supply and demand by 2060.

Not all climate forecasts are so dire, but experts say Arizonans should prepare for extreme heat, drought and related events. The problem is not in the centuries to come, they say, it is immediate.

Last year was the hottest on record in Arizona, and 2018 is on track to eclipse that. Experts predict temperatures will rise another 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next seven decades. With more heat, researchers say, comes more air pollution and allergens. The Colorado River reservoirs on which Arizona residents depend are expected to shrink due to rising temperatures and population expansion, and microorganisms that thrive in extreme heat put these endangered water reserves.

If these predictions, which have been published by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and various sources, come to pass, the health of Arizonans could quickly be at risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Climate and Health Program website. the United States. A Vice reporter even said that Phoenix would become unlivable.

“Heat puts a lot of stress on the body, and humans and animals need daily heat relief,” said Arizona State climatologist Nancy Selover. “If there is no air-conditioned place to go for relief, people with underlying health conditions may be at risk. It is a problem for people with heart disease, respiratory disease and the elderly.

Extreme weather events, such as dust storms and heat waves, which are expected to become more frequent due to climate change and other factors, are also of concern. These events also pose higher risks to human health, according to the CDC.

2017 was the hottest year on record for Arizona, with the hottest day reaching 119 degrees on June 20, 3 degrees lower than the record set in June 1990. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center believes that 2018 will be another banner year. The first month of 2018 was the third hottest January on record for Phoenix, which is one of the fastest warming cities in the country.

“We’re seeing warmer temperatures across the state over the past 30 or so years, both in daytime and nighttime temperatures,” Selover said.

Urban areas are experiencing greater temperature increases than rural areas, Selover said. Emissions of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases are among the factors suspected of contributing to rising temperatures.

“The natural desert environment and irrigated agriculture cool very quickly at night, so they don’t feature the warmer nights in the city,” Selover said. “It is a climate change that is totally attributable to our activities.”

Phoenix is ​​ranked the second fastest warming city in the United States, according to the World Atlas website – Prescott was fifth and Tucson seventh on the list. Arizona’s 7 million residents are already struggling with higher temperatures and hotter seasons, and Selover said it will only make things worse for their health.

Preparing now for these events will help “ensure that our communities are properly prepared for health challenges,” according to the CDC’s Climate and Health Program website.

The following outlines the potential health effects for Arizona residents as climate change and other factors contribute to rising temperatures in Arizona. Hover over the data for more information. (Graphics by Katriona Martin/Cronkite News)


The state’s average temperature is expected to rise more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2090, according to States at Risk, a project of Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization aimed at showing Americans the impacts of climate change. This means that heat waves could become more frequent, which will particularly affect Arizonans unable to shelter from the heat. This includes more than 200,000 people living in poverty, aged 5 and under or 65 and over, who are particularly vulnerable to heat, according to States at Risk. This number is likely to increase if the warming trend continues.

water and food

As Arizona warms, demand for water will increase, reducing supply.

“We are currently in the 23rd year of drought,” Selover said. “We’ve had dry spells 37 years in the past with no warnings that could be linked to greenhouse gases, so we can’t automatically blame drought on climate change, but the two are probably linked.”

Lake Mead, one of Arizona’s main water sources, has dropped more than 7 feet since 2011 and continues to fluctuate, according to USBR.

Arizona relies on what the Environmental Protection Agency calls intermittent, ephemeral, and upstream (I/E/H) flows for public drinking water, according to an EPA analysis, but pollution from the air and growing populations of microorganisms could contaminate these supplies. The Colorado River provides Arizona with 39% of its water, according to USBR. A shortage of water could lead to food shortages, which could lead to malnutrition, according to the EPA.


From 1980 to 2015, CO₂ from fossil fuels in Arizona increased by 38.2 million metric tons. As this number continues to rise, breathing difficulties and respiratory illnesses will increase, according to the EPA. According to the National Institutes of Health, air pollution has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular disease because it is carcinogenic to humans.

Allergens could also increase as temperatures rise.

“As air pollutants accumulate and higher temperatures create more pollen in the air, stronger airborne allergens accompany it,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This can affect those who already have severe allergies and increase the length of allergy seasons, according to Lung.org.

Temperatures may continue to rise in Arizona, so planning ahead and taking care of yourself while outdoors can help you stay safe and prevent heat-related incidents. Check the Air Quality Index before you go outside each day to avoid situations where allergies could be most harmful.

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