Residents of Harris County, Texas are no stranger to heat. The swampy Houston metro area averages nearly 40 days per year with temperatures in the 100 degrees F or higher range. But, according to a pair of papers published this week, if nothing is done about climate change, many more U.S. cities could be feeling a similar kind of heat.
A new report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and a study published by the same authors in the journal Environmental Research Communications found that the annual number of days with heat indices above 100 degrees F is expected to double by mid-century. That’s compared to temperatures between 1971 to 2000. The number of days that “feel like” 105 degrees or higher is set to triple, with the number of people exposed to “off-the-charts” temperatures growing exponentially.
What exactly is considered “off-the-charts,” you ask? Those are days with conditions so extreme that they exceed the current National Weather Service heat index range, which stops at 127 degrees F. That’s a higher heat index than what we’re currently seeing in Death Valley in July. Days like this have so far affected less than 1 percent of the U.S. by area, but by mid-century, up to a quarter of the U.S. could feel “off-the-charts” heat at least one day a year.
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