HEAT: Coping With A Warming World

As the climate warms, there are more days with extreme heat, heat waves are happening more frequently, and average nighttime temperatures are rising even faster than daytime.  NPR and Member stations are working together to explore what happens when people, animals and plants can’t cool down. We’ll check on a city that’s trying to prepare for extreme heat, visit scientists tracking ecosystems thrown out of whack, and explain the impact of rising heat on agriculture and more. 

The cows were silent on a recent July morning at Mill-King dairy farm in McGregor, Texas. They stood under shade trees, digesting their breakfast, while cicadas buzzed in the branches overhead.

"It's starting to warm up, so they're starting to get a little bit less ... frolicky," says Craig Miller, watching from the fence line.

His grandfather started this farm. Now he runs it, producing nonhomogenized milk from a mostly grass-fed herd. He says this cow behavior is exactly what he expects as the temperature rises.

Can't cool off this summer? Heat waves can slow us down in ways we may not realize.

New research suggests heat stress can muddle our thinking, making simple math a little harder to do.

There is a moment as heatstroke sets in when the body, no longer able to cool itself, stops sweating. Joey Azuela remembers it well.

"My body felt hot, like, in a different way," he says. "It was like a 'I'm cooking' hot."

Three summers ago, Azuela, then 14, and his father were hiking a trail in one of Phoenix's rugged desert preserves. It was not an unusually hot day for Phoenix, and they had gotten a later start than usual. By the time they reached the top, Azuela was weak and nauseous. They had run out of water.