One of the most well-known effects of climate change is “global warming,” meaning an increase in average temperatures and humidity. Hotter temperatures are also associated with more extreme weather patterns that can lead to natural disasters. Scientists are now predicting that rising temps will cause an “extreme heat belt” to form in the United States that will affect more than 100 million people.
What temperature is considered extreme heat? The National Weather Service’s describes “extremely dangerous” temps as those that rise to more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit (or 52 degrees Celsius).
This type of weather puts many people in danger of suffering from health conditions, such as heat stroke and fainting, plus it increases the chances of events taking place like hurricanes and dangerous floods.
Study Findings: 100 Million Americans to Live in Extreme Heat Belt
New research conducted by First Street Foundation, a group dedicated to climate research, suggests that over the next 30 years 100 million people living in the U.S. alone will live in an extreme heat belt.
What is an extreme heat belt?
It describes locations where the hottest days of the year will become even hotter and also more frequent.
In 2022, about 8 million people in the U.S. lived in locations where extreme heat was a concern. This number is expected to rise drastically by the year 2053. It’s estimated that 13 times the amount of Americans, about 107 million, will be living in places that are susceptible to extreme heat.
It’s also predicted that the number of extreme hot days each year will more than double over the next several decades. By 2053, there may be about 18 to 30 days per year in some locations that reach 125-plus degrees, while currently there are about seven per year.
What states are in the heat belt?
Some places in the U.S. are thought to be impacted by climate change more than others, especially those in the Southern U.S., where it’s already hotter.
The extreme heat belt is an area that covers Texas all the way to the Great Lakes. It’s considered to include locations from Northern and Eastern Texas and Louisiana borders up to the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana and into Wisconsin.
According to Front Street’s research, states most likely to experience dangerously hot days include Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Florida.
What It Means
It’s believed that climate change is mostly accelerating due to human-driven greenhouse gas emissions, such as from burning of fossil fuels for energy.
As climate change causes average temperatures to rise and increases the amount of days when temps sore over 125 degrees, we can expect to see more frequent disasters taking place.
While outside of this belt, Florida is one state that is expected to be particularly affected by climate change. Some parts of Florida may experience 34+ days of extreme heat each year. Hot streaks could also last for as many as 74 consecutive days.
Parts of California are also susceptible to climate change’s effects, such as due to rising tides and “mega floods.” Places along the East Coast, such as parts of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, will likely also deal with the fallout of very hot days.
Even though some states are hotter than others, the entire U.S. may suffer from the impact of extreme heat.
As researchers explained to CNN, “Interestingly, exposure to Consecutive Local Hot Days is most likely to occur in West Coast states, while states in the Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast are most at risk of exposure to extremely dangerous temperatures, meaning virtually the entire country is subject to increasing perils associated with heat exposure.”
Some effects of climate change that may be especially dangerous for those living in the extreme heat belt and other susceptible areas include:
- Local heat waves that put the elderly, infants and children at risk for heat stroke, dehydration and fainting.
- Increased droughts in some areas.
- Increased insect outbreaks due to changes in humidity and heat.
- Rising sea levels, which causes higher risk for extreme hurricanes and floods.
- Dangerous wildfires.
- Changes the food and water supply due to difficulty sustaining crops.
What Can Be Done
What is the best way to survive extreme heat? If you live in a place that gets very hot, use caution when spending time outdoors, especially if you’re older or have young kids.
Drink plenty of water, seek shade often and use fans in your home. Also wear cool clothing and sunscreen, and avoid strenuous activities outdoors.
On a bigger scale, the U.S. and many other nations are trying to tackle climate change in various ways, especially those that involve lowering greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global warming.
For example, one climate bill, also called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, detailed how the United States will tackle climate change and make the country a global climate leader.
The bill is meant to promote a transition to a renewable energy economy and significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the end of 2030. Some of the main components of the bill include tax credits for switching to clean energy sources, lower costs for renewable power and other incentives for companies that reduce CO2 emissions.
- New research suggests that more than 100 million Americans living in the “extreme heat belt” will experience temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit much more frequently by the year 2053.
- The extreme heat belt is an area in the U.S. expanding from Texas and Louisiana up to Illinois. Florida, Georgia and California are other areas susceptible to high heat, floods and hurricanes.
- By 2053, there may be about 18 to 30 days per year in some locations that reach at least 125 degrees.
- Scientists and politicians are working on ways to reduce global warming and its effects, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, by focusing on renewable energy.