Heat, air pollution and climate change … oh my! Was summer 2023 the new normal?

Heat, air pollution and climate change … oh my! Was summer 2023 the new normal?

Intense heat waves induced by climate change create favorable conditions for air pollution to worsen. Scientists say this isn’t likely to change unless action is taken.

HOUSTON — This has been a summer of extreme heat — and scientists say this heat, coupled with infrequent rain, can supercharge air pollution. As the climate continues to warm, summers will pose a threat to not only our comfort but our lungs.


Climate has always changed, but it’s important to acknowledge that scientists universally agree that the speed of which climate is currently changing is unprecedented. Hearing terms like “global warming” can make climate change more confusing to understand. A large part of climate change is related to heat, but other factors like air pollution and precipitation must be considered.

While Texas summer’s are always hot, Houston Advanced Research Center’s Air Quality research scientist, Ebrahim Eslami, said that the summer of 2023 is different. It’s hotter. This summer the planet experienced the three hottest days ever recorded in the same week, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Cities like Houston are tying the 2011 record-breaking temperature at 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, Dallas reached 110 degrees.

But temperatures aren’t the only problem. Heat is a form of energy. Energy helps create and facilitate chemical reactions. Ozone, a dominant pollutant for much of the Gulf Coast, does not exist on its own. It’s created by emissions mixing with heat energy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the petrochemical industry is Houston’s largest contributor of volatile organic compounds to ozone. Traffic emissions create NOXs or nitrogen oxides, which also contribute to ozone emissions. Add heat energy, and ozone pollution is formed. Ultimately, ozone pollution can cause lifelong damage to respiratory systems and worsen conditions like asthma or bronchitis.

Without rain, the heat and emissions can linger in the atmosphere and continuously create ozone pollution. The EPA will not implement new ozone pollution standards until after the 2024 presidential election. Current standards have not been revised since 2015.

The video above provides more information on creating awareness around ozone and actions you can make in your own communities.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”
Credit: Paul-Alain Hunt/Unsplash

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

PITTSBURGH — Waste from the oil and gas industry contains toxic and radioactive substances. Disposal of this waste is supposed to be carefully tracked, but 800,000 tons of oil and gas waste from Pennsylvania oil and gas wells is unaccounted for, according to a recent study.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
florida flooding
Big Stock Photo

New study projects sea level rise to drain Florida’s financial future

One million Florida properties are projected to become chronically flooded: properties that today fund nearly 30% of local revenues for more than half of the state’s municipalities, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Cornell and Florida State Universities.

exxon hacked information
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Exxon relied on hacked info in fight against climate probes — court docs

In its battle against climate investigations in Massachusetts and New York, Exxon Mobil cited news reports that leaned on stolen information, according to court documents filed last week in connection with a vast hacking-for-hire scheme.

Students return to Lahaina schools as EPA seals down toxic ash

State health and education officials say it's safe for kids to come back but some parents and teachers have doubts.
roman ruins
Photo by Jamil Kabar on Unsplash

Climate change has toppled some civilizations but not others. Why?

The link between environmental disasters and societal collapse, explained.
phoenix arizona skyline mountains
Photo by Ian Dziuk on Unsplash

Q&A: After its hottest summer on record, Phoenix's mayor outlines the city's future

Mayor Kate Gallego answers how the city is looking to address extreme heat and drought to build a more sustainable city.

Is the UK doing enough to monitor air pollution?

There are now 555 air quality monitors across the country, but some say they aren't good enough.
From our Newsroom
drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

climate change health care

Severe flooding increasingly cutting people off from health care

Many more Americans will find themselves regularly cut off from essential services, rescue workers and health care long before water actually reaches their homes, a recent study predicts.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Robbie Parks on why hurricanes are getting deadlier

"In places where there are high minority populations they bear, by far, the most burden of deaths from tropical cyclones."

children nature

Opinion: When kids feel the magic of nature, they will want to protect it

Improving our quality of life starts with the simple of act of getting kids outdoors.

birds climate change

In the Gulf of Maine, scientists race to save seabirds threatened by climate change

“I could see that, if successful, the methods developed could likely help these species."

fracking economics

Appalachia’s fracking counties are shedding jobs and residents: Study

The 22 counties that produce 90% of Appalachian natural gas lost a combined 10,339 jobs between 2008 and 2021.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.