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Google data shows what people search for during major heatwaves

Google has used its mass of data to look at terms used over past decades during heatwaves. The topic has arrived due to the massive heatwaves hitting parts of the US and Canada, including some regions like the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are typically mild and conditions are usually rainy. To no one’s surprise, people really want air conditioners.

Summer in the US kicked off with all-time heat records across multiple states, with many regions exceeding 100F for multiple days — including states that don’t typically experience such heat. The Pacific Northwest is one example of a place hit hard by the heat, particularly due to the lack of air conditioning as a common appliance in Washington and Oregon.

As you’d expect, Google searches for air conditioning have skyrocketed, particularly searches for air conditioner installation services, at least according to Google. The company recently shared some insights into what people have been searching for during heatwaves, noting that searchs for air conditioner installation have increased every summer for several years.

As well, searches for the term “heat wave” have steadily increased; using historical data going back decades (including content from books and other print media via Google Books), the term has been used since at least the year 1800. However, based on Google’s data, it has only steadily spiked in usage since around the mid-1980s, underscoring the changes in climate over the past few decades.

Some terms are a bit deceptive, however, and may not refer to heatwaves, Google notes. One example is the term “scorcher,” which presently means a particularly hot day. However, Google’s blog post about these search terms notes historic spikes in the use of the term was due to its different meaning in the distant past, not because of especially hot summers.

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