- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Scorching, searing, sizzling, scalding, burning, blistering, broiling and boiling: It's not just purple prose. This is the red, orange and bronze stuff the language of hot weather.
In the past 48 hours, overwrought news media have gone scurrying to the thesaurus for new and improved ways of reporting excessive temperature, and its effect on man and beast.
"Weather is news, no matter what it's doing," said Susan Weaver of the National Weather Service. "It has impact it is a matter of safety and convenience. But I have no idea why it inspires drama in the media."
Perhaps it is more a case of poetic license.
While Americans were "roasting" at CNN, they were "sweltering" over at MSNBC, which saw fit to include a heat index calculator, plus a glossary of "heat-related terms," just in case viewers couldn't figure out the differences among heat cramps, a heat wave and heatstroke.
The mystery of the heat index, in fact, was the star of many TV and radio broadcasts yesterday. Why report the real temperature of 88 degrees, when the heat index was sitting at 108? As plot device, the combination of heat and humidity was as effective as that centerpiece of winter-weather reporting, the wind-chill factor.
Lingering heat gave rise to noteworthy headlines as well.
"Hot gets hotter as hottest days of summer arrive," advised the Baltimore Sun, which included a guide on "How Sweat Glands Work," an ultraviolet ray calculator and a somewhat disquieting discourse on the "three stages of heat illness."
"Deadly heat wave bakes most of U.S.," was the description at Reuters news service, which provided extensive advice on how to save power during peak-use hours, as well as one official's advice to his city.
"Take as much of your clothes off as you're legally allowed to do," New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told reporters at his daily briefing. "I emphasize the last part of that: legally allowed to do."
The Hartford Courant, meanwhile, analyzed the heat's effects on hairdos and ice cream, while the Detroit Free Press advised one and all to "focus on the positive."
High temperatures also inspired expanded coverage. Along with endless lists of the obvious ("Drink water," "Wear cool clothes"), both print and broadcast news groups also touched upon the obscure.
The online source Wild Weather (www.wildweather.com ) took a poll of its visitors to discover that 42 percent of them had suffered from heatstroke at some point or another. The hot weather's effects on corn and soybean crops made the headlines, as did a curious report of corn husks falling from the Kansas skies for unknown reasons yesterday.
"It is very odd," noted one meteorologist.
Few can blame journalists, though, for their reactions to weather. The weather's influences on mind and body have been studied for years so much so that one weather service now offers regional maps that gauge American mood, reaction time and attentiveness based on the weather.
"We analyze computer models of the forecasts around the country. Humidity, temperature, sunlight they all have their effects on us," said Joseph D'Aleo, chief meteorologist of Massachusetts-based Intellicast (www.intellicast.com ).
"Let's face it. Heat takes it out of us. We don't sleep well. Our tempers can get short," he added. "But we can always look to the future. The indications are that we are in for a very cold, very snowy winter."

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