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article imageMillions in U.S. facing dangerous heat and humidity by 2050

By Karen Graham     Jul 15, 2016 in Environment
The dog days of summer across the U.S. have brought us some of the hottest days we have seen so far this year. And when those high temperatures are combined with high levels of humidity, most people opt for a cool drink and the A/C.
But as we have seen around the globe, extremes of high temperatures and humidity also lead to a rise in weather-related deaths, with heat being the number one weather-related heat killer, according to Seeker.
And as greenhouse gas pollution continues, global temperatures will continue to rise, bringing more "heat waves," days of prolonged and extremely dangerous heat and humidity.
Depending on where in the world we live, and even what region of the U.S. we are talking about, a heat wave will be defined differently, and that is because the local weather history is taken into account. This applies to routine weather variations and to extraordinary spells of heat and humidity.
However, in the U.S., a heat wave is usually defined as a period of at least two or more days of excessively hot weather. Global warming boosts the probability of extreme weather events, like heat waves, far more than it boosts more moderate events.
Climate Central's "States at Risk"
Climate Central's senior scientist Alyson Kenward is the author of a study released on July 13 that analysed the summer temperature trends in the U.S. since the 1970s, as well as projecting future trends in extreme heat and humidity.
Using several measures and computer models, the study found that most U.S. cities have already experienced increases in extreme summer heat and absolute humidity over the past several decades, and will continue to experience dramatic increases in dangerous and extreme heat days by the middle of this century.
Specifically, the hottest parts of the country, including Florida, Texas, and the Southwest, have already seen increases in the number of extreme heat days, including days over 90°F, 95°F, and 100°F, as well as rising levels of humidity that make the heat index dangerous for everyone.
Kenward says it is the cities in those states that will be facing the projected increases in dangerous heat over the next several decades. Perhaps not surprising, the 13 metro areas in the U.S. projected to see the greatest increase in heat danger days by 2050 are all in Florida.
These cities can expect to see over 100 dangerous heat days — when the heat index rises to 104°F by the middle of the century. And as we progress into the middle of the century, the number of danger days when the heat index is dangerously high will increase, according to computer models.
Climate Central
There are a plethora of consequences to look forward to as the number of days with increased temperatures hits us. besides the increase in heat-related deaths, there will be an added challenge for the healthcare industry with the increased number of hospitalizations and insurance costs associated with heat-related injuries.
The extreme heat and associated humidity and pollution will impact our infrastructure. We will see increases in ground-level ozone, and power brown-outs, and black-outs as the heat puts a strain on the power grid. The agriculture sector will suffer, with crops withering or drying up in the fields.
You have heard all these horror stories before, but it is necessary that people be reminded that climate change really is here, and we really need to take those consequences seriously.
Climate Central is an independent organization that researches and reports on climate change.
Analysis by Alyson Kenward, PhD, Jennifer Brady, James Bronzan and Todd Sanford. Read full methodology.
More about Climate change, extreme heat, humidity, weatherrelated deaths, florida and texas
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