Basically everywhere in the U.S. east of the Rockies—in Massachusetts and in Chicago and in Texas—people seem to believe that the classic division of four seasons doesn’t apply. “Our state actually has 12 seasons,” they say. What are they? First, there’s Winter, as you might expect. But then Winter becomes Fool’s Spring and Second Winter. Then there’s the Pollening, which precedes Actual Spring. And while Summer follows, it’s only an entrée to Hell’s Front Porch.
I wouldn’t make such a strong claim, either theological or phenological, but as a climate reporter, I’ve started to think about an added season of the year. The effects of climate change are felt year-round, but there’s a heightened set of months when it seems to become omnipresent and un-ignorable.
It is the Bad Season. And we are right in the middle of it.
For the next several days, a vast blanket of oppressive heat will smother the eastern two-thirds of the United States, subjecting tens of millions of people to searingly hot days and forbidding, unrelenting nights. From the southern Plains to New England, inescapable humidity will meet broiling air to produce heat indexes in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
We are not simply talking about a series of sweltering afternoons. Even hours after the sun sets, air temperatures could hang well above 90, dipping below the 80-degree mark only in the moments before dawn. The heat index in some big cities—including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—may sit above the mid-80s for 72 hours straight.