An area of extremely warm weather — known as an “extreme heat belt” — with at least one day per year when the heat index reaches 125 Fahrenheit (52 °C) is expected to blanket a U.S. region with a population of more than 100 million people by Year 2053, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the nonprofit First Street Foundation, used a peer-reviewed model built with public and third-party data to estimate heat risk on what it called a “hyperlocal” scale of 30 square meters.
The First Street Foundation’s mission is to make climate risk modeling accessible to the public, government and industry stakeholders such as real estate investors and insurers.
A key finding of the study was that heat exceeding the threshold of the National Weather Service’s highest category — “extreme danger,” or above 125°F — is projected to affect 8.1 million people in 2023 and 107 million people in 2053 will grow. a 13-fold increase.
This would encompass a geographic region stretching from northern Texas and Louisiana to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin – inland areas far removed from the more temperate weather often seen near the coast.
Heat index, also known as apparent temperature, is the human body’s true perception of the outside temperature when relative humidity is combined with air temperature.
To create their model, the research team examined satellite-derived land surface temperatures and air temperatures between 2014 and 2020 to understand the precise relationship between the two measurements.
This information was further examined by considering elevation, area water intake, distance to surface water, and distance to a shoreline.
The model was then scaled to future climate conditions using a “middle ground” scenario proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in which carbon dioxide levels begin to decline mid-century but do not reach net-zero by 2100.
Beyond the “extreme danger” days, areas across the country are expected to face hotter temperatures with varying degrees of resilience.
“These increases in local temperatures are having a significant impact on communities unaccustomed to warmer weather compared to their normal climate,” the report said.
For example, a 10 percent increase in temperature in northeastern Maine, despite higher absolute temperatures in Texas, can be just as dangerous as a 10 percent increase in southwestern Texas.
The largest predicted shift in local temperature has occurred in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which currently has its hottest temperature of 103 Fahrenheit seven days a year. By 2053, this number is expected to rise to 34 days at 103 degrees.
And the increase in air-conditioning use likely to result from such temperature spikes will strain power grids, the report warned, leading to more frequent, longer-lasting brownouts.
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