Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying

May 28, 2024 by Dan McCue
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying
(Photo by Sarah Bernier via Pixabay)

WASHINGTON — It may have been an international smash six decades ago, but the title of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ April 1964 smash, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” is no less apt today than it was then — especially when it comes to skin cancer and heat-related illness.

To help protect against fun in the sun becoming a cause of misery, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a new online tool for the contiguous U.S. called HeatRisk.

Built upon a simple, colored-coded and numeric scale, the first HeatRisk prototype was developed for California in 2013 and was expanded to cover the entire Western U.S. in 2017.

The latest version warns the public across the U.S. of the risk for heat impacts over the next seven days, so people can make informed decisions to protect themselves from sweltering heat waves this summer.

When clicking on a specific date, users are taken to a map showing the forecast risk of heat-related impacts expected to occur over a 24-hour period.

The assessment takes into consideration how unusual the heat is for the time of the year; the duration of the heat including both daytime and nighttime temperatures; and if those temperatures pose an elevated risk of heat-related impacts based on data from the CDC.

“Climate change is causing more frequent and intense heat waves that are longer in duration, resulting in nearly 1,220 deaths each year in the U.S. alone,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., in a written statement announcing the launch of the new tool. 

“Last year was the warmest year on record for the globe, and we just experienced the warmest winter on record. HeatRisk is arriving just in time to help everyone, including heat-sensitive populations, prepare and plan for the dangers of extreme heat,” Spinrad said.

Tips to protect yourself from sunburn and heat stress

The sun’s UV rays can cause sunburn and damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, while making you more susceptible to dehydration and heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 

The sun is also a cause of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the CDC.

In an effort to educate the public about these dangers and prevent people from becoming victims, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention on Friday, May 24, held its latest “Don’t Fry Day” effort in collaboration with its broad coalition of member organizations and federal agencies, including the National Weather Service.

The national initiative aims to provide information and tips to protect against sunburn and heat stress and is held each year on the Friday before Memorial Day, which is generally considered the kick-off to summer.

Among its safety tips:

  • Check NOAA’s UV Index forecast before you go outside. If UV is expected to be at dangerously high levels, consider postponing outdoor plans.
  • Apply — and reapply — sunscreen.
  • Seek shade.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Wear protective clothing.

The council and its partners are also warning members of the general public to be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illness this summer, and know what to do if you experience it. 

Populations that are especially vulnerable to heat impacts include those who are pregnant, newborns, children, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions. 

Links to the National Weather Service’s heat safety tips and resources for more information can be found here.

“Heat can impact our health, but heat-related illness and death are preventable,” said CDC Director Mandy Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. 

“We are releasing new heat and health tools and guidance to help people take simple steps to stay safe in the heat,” she said.

HeatRisk is available across the contiguous U.S. as an experimental product while NWS accepts feedback from the public. Customers can submit feedback through Sept. 30, by completing this survey.

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Heat Waves
  • Heatrisk
  • hot weather safety
  • National Weather Service
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