Miami could very well become a tropical Venice — a balmy city with flooded streets where gondola operators ferry tourists past palm trees for a few dollars' worth of tips.
But so far it's looking more like the city might turn into something closer to the planet Venus, a choking mass of greenhouse gases so hot it will kill people. Multiple studies have warned that heat-related deaths are set to spike in Miami as the planet warms over the next century, and as of today, meteorologists say July 2017 has been the hottest month in recorded history.
Not just the hottest July. The hottest single month ever. According to measurements taken from a weather station at Miami International Airport, the average temperature in July edged up to 85.8 degrees daily, topping the previous record of 85.5 degrees set in June 2010, according to Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate and meteorologist at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who blogged about Miami's latest heat spike for the Capital Weather Gang news service.
"More so than probably what you would see in other stations closer to the coast, MIA Airport station is not only influenced by the gradual upward trend from basic climate change, but on top of that, that station is prone to an urban 'heat island' effect," McNoldy tells New Times via phone. "As the city sprawls out and adds more paved surfaces, that works on top of background climate change."
Six of the ten hottest months in recorded city history have occurred within the past ten years.
That's not the only temperature benchmark the city is set to top this year. Miami is on track for the highest number of days when the low temperature tops 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Miami has already broken its record for the number of over-80 days through the first six months of the year; the previous record through July had been set at just 25. But this year, it's jumped to 32 days, and the total record for the year is only 45. McNoldy wrote on his blog yesterday that, with another seven weeks of summer left in Miami, the city will almost certainly surpass its previous heat record.
He further explains to New Times that because Miami temperatures tend to remain consistently warm throughout the year, a small spike in "low" temperatures from the mid-70s into the 80s is a huge jump.
"It’s pretty unusual," he says. "The average low for this time of year is 78. Lows from one day, one week, one month to the next don’t change a lot in Miami. If the low goes from 78 to 83, that’s a huge difference."
Likewise, the Magic City might also set new high-temperature records: As of today, Miami has had 39 straight days with a high temperature above 90 degrees. The yearly record is 44, and the current forecast certainly suggests Miami can top that record next week.
McNoldy cautions that this trend could represent the beginning of a "new normal" in Miami, as climate change slowly turns the city into a kiln. Over the past year, even winter temps topped previous averages for the entire year — meaning temperatures in January 2017 were sometimes hotter than they would have been in June two decades ago. Year-over-year temperature charts show the city's average temperature has climbed yearly since roughly 1920, especially since the '90s:
"Take a look at the chart with the full-year temperatures going back through our history," McNoldy says. "You really see that upward trend in the last 40, 50 years. Even the cool years dipped down; they’re higher than what the average used to be."
The increasing heat spikes appear to confirm warnings from national scientists, who have cautioned in recent years that Miami is set to see huge heat surges due to global warming. According to multiple studies, the city is slated to see the nation's largest increase in "deadly heat" days due to climate change — more than 200 days per year could top the "deadly heat" threshold by 2100. A study conducted by Brown University researchers warned that heat-related deaths could jump by 200 to 1,400 people per year in Miami by 2090 depending upon how fast the area population grows.
"This past winter — December, January, February — was also the warmest we've ever had," McNoldy says. "We were also breaking records left and right, even more than now. Any type of metric, we broke it."