Residents of Deep South states like Mississippi and Louisiana know all about the hot weather of summer. But if an analysis by a nonprofit foundation and The Washington Post is accurate, much larger areas of the country soon will be dealing with a similar experience.
The First Street Foundation used the heat index, which measures temperature and humidity to determine how hot the weather feels, to predict what lies ahead in 30 years for each zip code in America if current weather trends continue.
The Post said its analysis of First Street data indicates today’s climate has caused 46% of Americans to experience at least three straight days of a heat index above 100 degrees. By 2053, if hot weather increases its coverage, it predicts 63% of the population will face this problem. New areas dealing with this extreme heat are expected to include western Ohio, northern Indiana, Chicago, Iowa and even parts of South Dakota.
It’s no surprise that the areas facing the largest number of 100-degree heat-index days in a year’s time are south Texas, southwest Louisiana and south Florida, plus parts of California and Arizona along the Mexican border.
Don’t feel left out. Over the next 30 years in Southern states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, the First Street model says there will be a lot more high heat days, too. There just won’t be quite as many of them as in the country’s warmest areas.
A 30-year estimate is available for each zip code in the country. To find it, go to WashingtonPost.com and in the search window at the top left of the page, type in “extreme heat risk.”
For much of Mississippi, the model predicts that by 2053, there will be at least 24 more days with a heat index above 100 degrees than there will be next summer.
If that is accurate, it will essentially extend this state’s hottest summer weather by a month or more. That is not good news, especially for people who work outdoors, as they’ll have to take heat precautions for a longer period of time.
The model uses a “moderate” climate scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions peak around 2040 and then begin to decline. As we wait to see how accurate these predictions are, it’s a good time to remember something that can actually make a difference in heat management: Plant more trees.
Trees are cooling machines. They provide shade, they capture the wind, they take carbon dioxide out of the air and replace it with oxygen, and many of them are attractive. More trees can make a temperature difference, especially in high-density residential areas.
One of the interesting items in the story is that heat is the top weather-related cause of death in the United States. The Post cited a 2020 study in Houston, Texas, where city officials measured heat in all neighborhoods.
In one, mostly home to recent immigrants from Central America, Afghanistan and Syria, and with only one park and few trees, the afternoon temperature was up to 17 degrees hotter than Houston’s coolest areas.
If more heat is indeed coming, Mississippi’s lower population might provide a slight cushion. It might provide more space to plant trees.
— Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal