A new report from the First Street Foundation brings disturbing news. It found that extreme heat is expected to affect 8 million Americans in 2023. However, by 2053, 107 million Americans – nearly one-third of the US population – are expected to be exposed to extreme heat. That’s thirteen times more people than next year. Do we have your attention yet?
Here is the introduction to the message:
“New research from the First Street Foundation analyzes the increasing prevalence of extreme temperatures and dangerous heat waves in the contiguous United States, with the occurrence of heat exceeding the National Weather Service (NWS) highest category threshold a key finding. The heat, called “Extreme Danger” (Heat Index above 125°F), is expected to affect about 8 million people this year and rise to about 107 million people in 2053, a 13-fold increase in 30 years. This increase in “Extreme Danger Days” is concentrated in the center of the country, in areas where there are no coastal influences to moderate extreme temperatures.
“The First Street Foundation Extreme Heat Model (FSF-EHM) was created using datasets from the US federal government, augmented with publicly available and third-party data sources and existing heat modeling research and expertise. The model estimates localized thermal risk at 30-meter resolution across the United States today and 30 years into the future, creating a highly accurate climate-adapted thermal model that provides property-level insight. Its analysis combines high-resolution measurements of land surface temperatures, vegetation cover, impervious surfaces, land cover and water proximity to calculate current heat exposure, then adjusts to future projected emissions scenarios. This makes it possible to determine the number of days any property would be expected to be exposed to dangerous levels of heat.”
The first thing we need to do when analyzing any report is to define the terms it uses. The National Weather Service defines “heat index” as follows.
“Heat index, also known as apparent temperature, is how the human body feels when the relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. This has important aspects for the comfort of the human body. When the body gets too hot, it begins to sweat or perspire to cool down. If sweat cannot evaporate, the body cannot regulate its temperature. Evaporation is a cooling process. As sweat evaporates from the body, it effectively lowers body temperature.
“When the moisture content of the air (i.e., relative humidity) is high, the rate of evaporation from the body decreases. In other words, the human body is warmer in humid conditions. The opposite is true when the relative humidity decreases because the rate of perspiration increases. The body feels cooler in dry conditions. There is a direct relationship between air temperature and relative humidity and the heat index, that is, as the air temperature and relative humidity increase (decrease), the heat index increases (decreases).
In other words, when high heat and high humidity combine, the human body cannot cool itself effectively without the help of fans or air conditioning. These conditions can lead to heatstroke and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Who is the First Street Foundation?
The mission of the First Street Foundation is to make information about climate risks accessible that is easy to understand and use for individuals, governments and industry. It created RiskFactor.com so individuals can assess flood, fire and extreme heat risks for their own property, rather than relying on public data that may be too broad to reveal hazards affecting individual properties, or scientific journals that may be inaccessible to private citizens .
“There has long been an urgent need in the United States for accurate, publicly available property-level environmental risk information based on open source, peer-reviewed science,” says First Street. “As part of a mission to fill this need, First Street Foundation has built a team of leading modelers, researchers and data scientists to develop the first comprehensive, publicly available risk models in the United States. Starting with floods, moving to wildfires and now extreme heat, First Street is working to correct the information asymmetry in the marketplace, empowering Americans to protect their most valuable asset – their home, while working with industry and government entities to inform them of their risks.”
First finds on the street
As he explained Axioshere are the key First Street finds Extreme heat report:
- The developing “Extreme Heat Belt” forms an area of vulnerability from northern Texas to Illinois and includes the cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Tulsa and Chicago.
- By 2030, some coastal areas in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic may also experience heat index days above 125°F.
The report shows that the United States will have to deal with the effects of increased exposure to heat almost everywhere, although there will be differences based on geography.
- The West will have the highest chance of a long spell with “local hot days”, which are days that exceed the temperatures normally found in a particular area.
- The Gulf and Southeast will see the highest chances and longest duration of exposure to what are called “dangerous days” with a heat index greater than 100°F, the report said.
- Among the states likely to see the largest increases in dangerous days are Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Florida.
- The counties with the largest changes in dangerous days between 2023 and 2053 are located mainly in Florida, led by Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The report shows how the characteristics of heat waves may change in the near future. Many places have more than 20 days in a row today with heat indices above 100°F. By 2053, however, such streaks could last up to 74 consecutive days. Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, and Missouri make up the top 5 states with the largest increase in CO2 emissions related to cooling demand between now and 2053.
Last month, US overnight lows were the warmest on record for any month. Abnormally high nighttime temperatures during heat waves increase the public health risk of heat-related illness. In addition, warm temperature records outnumbered cold temperature records by nearly eight to one.
If you look at the heat index map created by First Street, you can see that the hottest areas correspond to the states that lag the most on climate action and renewable energy deployment of all US states. The policy has consequences and it is evident that these states are not taking effective measures to protect their residents from the impending health and property risks that are fully apparent to anyone who cares to look.
While many are busy attacking EVs for putting a strain on the power grid, they are simultaneously ignoring the strain on the grid that adding more and more air conditioners will cause. They also refuse to acknowledge how carbon emissions associated with thermal electricity generation worsen the number and severity of extreme temperature events.
Ultimately, it will be the insurance industry that decides which areas in America are safe for human habitation. When losses become too great, insurance companies simply stop writing property insurance for those areas. Banks won’t lend money on a property that isn’t insurable, and buyers won’t buy a property if they can’t get insurance. At that moment, the invisible hand of Adam Smith will do what politicians and talk show hosts refuse to do. But by then it may be too late for many Americans.
Everyone is afraid of change. Everyone would like to go back in time to a time when things were considered better by one metric or another. But the only constant in life is change. Railings won’t stop it. Only accepting the changes and adapting to them will give us hope of surviving the coming onslaught of a planet too hot for human beings to survive. The time to start adapting is today.
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