‘Extreme Heat Belt’ Is Predicted to Stretch Across the US by 2050 With up to 125°F

Choosing a home is much like choosing a bowl of porridge. Some of us like it hot, warm or a little bit cooler. Check out this latest research advice to avoid living in an extreme heat zone in the upcoming decades.
heat wave

You may need to think carefully about where you move to next and consider the advice given in a recent report by First Street Foundation. First Street has also made a free web tool at riskfactor.com that allows users to search US addresses for heat risk.

The tool is a handy application because its scoring provides beneficial financial information. It considers a house’s square footage as well as state electricity prices. The scoring tool will estimate how much an individual home’s energy bills will rise if the owner has air conditioning.

First Street’s sixth report aims to help Americans visualize how climate change will affect them at home. Previous reports focused on fires and floods, and the foundation made fire and flood risk scores available on its website for every property in the contiguous United States.

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Change in Average Temperature With Fahrenheit.svg
Change in Average Temperature With Fahrenheit by Eric Fisk under CC BY-SA 4.0

First Street Foundation is a nonprofit in New York that studies climate risk. According to a research report by Jeremy Porter, his team believes that by 2050 much of the United States will be classified as an “Extreme Heat Belt.” 

A quick overview of where to avoid living if you hate the heat

The future heat belt stretches from Texas and Louisiana up through Missouri and Iowa to the Wisconsin border. It includes the Southeast and the area just west of the Appalachian Mountains. Because these states are inland, there are no coastal influences to mitigate extreme temperatures. 

Texas welcome sign by Tim Patterson under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many communities there will not be acclimatized to warmer weather relative to their typical climate. By 2053, Miami-Dade County in Florida can expect to experience temperatures of 103°F with increasing frequency from just seven days per year to 34.

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Statistics can be misleading if you hate extreme temperatures

If you hate spending time in extreme temperatures, you need to dig a little deeper than just the yearly average temperatures. Typically, when people talk about climate change, they frequently use annual averages. Porter believes this methodology can inadvertently downplay the severity of what is coming. Even minor increases in global yearly averages will result in far more frequent extreme heat events.

Canada–US heatwave 51283106611
Copernicus Sentinel data 2021 by European Space Agency under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Temperatures are often discussed in yearly averages. Porter thinks that the discussion should be extended to extreme tail events expected in a given year.

According to his research team, heat index temperatures in a band stretching from Texas to Wisconsin will reach 125°F (52°C) at least once a year.

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Heat waves are about to get longer and hotter

Do you look forward to the summer heat wave? The heat wave is about to get longer and hotter. The bad news for sun-seekers is that future heat waves will be classified as extremely dangerous and on the top level of the National Weather Service’s heat index or the extreme danger level. (The index combines temperature and humidity to determine how it feels outside.)

According to the report, peak temperatures will now be reached 18 days per year in most localities across the country on the hottest seven days of the year. The report predicts that within three decades, more than 100 million Americans will live in an “extreme heat belt,” where temperatures exceed 125° Fahrenheit (52° Celsius) at least one day per year.

The dangers of extreme heat waves

While extreme heat may not cause you to lose your home, it does pose other risks. Almost 1,000 people were hospitalized due to the recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. Blackouts occur on power grids, causing the air conditioning to fail. As temperatures rise, people can become exhausted and dehydrated and die from heatstroke. Bridges and roads sag.

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Why the scientists think that they are right

Temperatures are notoriously difficult to forecast accurately even a few days in advance, let alone 30 years. There are, however, distinctions between climatology and meteorology.  

First Street employs climatology modeling, which depicts rising global temperatures based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Then, First Street includes address-specific data, factoring how much tree canopy cover is nearby and whether an area is surrounded by impervious surfaces that absorb and retain heat, such as parking lots.

The peer-reviewed model also considers factors such as proximity to a large body of water, which may moderate temperatures, and whether the house is located high in the mountains, which is cooler.

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According to Jeremy Porter, the foundation’s lead researcher, extreme heat has far less variation from house to house than fire or flood.