New England summers aren’t what they used to be


Getting tired of the heat and humidity of this June and July?

Have you changed your routine due to the hottest-ever July?

Are you spending time reminiscing about those New England summers of your youth?

If you’ve seen me lately, you might have noticed that I do a lot of muttering. I’m remembering the summers of my younger years, when I spent days under a dome of haze, heat and humidity.  Yes, the dreaded three Hs were well known to anyone living in the Washington, D.C., metro area. And it wasn’t much better in Pittsburgh, where I visited family. The only respite was at sleepaway camp in Maine.

I vowed I’d never live in hot and sticky conditions again. I can handle the heat, but the humidity and the haze are just debilitating for me.

Enter the summer of 2023.

This year, New England has felt a little like D.C. (while D.C. has felt like Houston). The haze has mostly been from the wildfires in Canada, but the heat and humidity are straight-up weather events. And it has dragged on and on.

And that muttering? I’m ruminating on how I never wanted to live in this kind of weather and I thought New England wasn’t going to be like this.

When we moved to the area in 1987, we bought a house without air conditioning. Everyone told us we wouldn’t need it. Those same people said there would be a breeze. My husband was skeptical.

Maybe those Rhode Islanders were heartier than we were. The lack of air conditioning made summers very uncomfortable. The breezes really didn’t help cut the heat until September.

My husband, a native Chicagoan who has little tolerance for a hot house, bought room air conditioners. And when we decided to do renovations some 15 years later, central air conditioning was near the top of the list.

Overall, this summer is on track to be the hottest on record. And summers have been trending hotter since the 1940s. It’s gotten worse in the last decade. Even the Farmer’s Almanac predicted this summer would have above-normal temperatures throughout most of North America.

Most experts agree that these weather extremes are the result of climate change caused by increased greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities. We are going to see these sizzling temperatures continue, as well as shifting rainfall and snow patterns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There are actions that we can take to do our part to try to slow the warming climate: adjust your thermostat, recycle, learn about climate change and get involved in organizations working to combat climate change. For example, Adamah, a Jewish organization that focuses on connections between people and the planet, has a Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition working to mobilize Jewish organizations to take collective climate action. Did you know that the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island is a member?

During my tenure as editor of this newspaper, I’ve written my fair share of weather-related columns, complaining about snow, lack of snow and cold. Usually, by the time the paper comes out, the weather has changed and I feel a little sheepish. So as I wrote this column while sweltering through late July, I wondered what Sunday would bring.

Sure enough, we awoke to a gorgeous summer day. Nice temperatures, cool breezes and lower humidity.

But I know those hot, sticky days will be back. After all, we still have all of August to get through. And climate change is real.

Fran Ostendorf,