North Carolina

Think NC is already too hot? Get ready to feel 3 months of 90-plus degrees, study says

Staying safe in hot temperatures

Some parts of the country are seeing dangerously high temperatures and as the mercury rises, so does the risk of heat-related illness. An emergency department doctor has tips on how to stay safe in the heat.
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Some parts of the country are seeing dangerously high temperatures and as the mercury rises, so does the risk of heat-related illness. An emergency department doctor has tips on how to stay safe in the heat.

If you think North Carolina is already sweltering, researchers have some bad news for you.

By the middle of this century, there will be three months’ worth of days that feel hotter than 90 degrees outside, about a month and a half’s worth that feel hotter than 100 and almost a month’s worth that feel hotter than 105, according to a study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

To put that in perspective, historically the state has had about a month’s worth of days that feel hotter than 90, only about a week’s worth of days that feel hotter than 100 and only two days that feel hotter than 105.

But this increase in extreme heat isn’t just happening in North Carolina. It’s happening across the country.

“Extreme heat is poised to rise steeply in frequency and severity over the coming decades, bringing unprecedented health risks for people and communities across the country,” the study said.

Across the country, the average number of days that feel hotter than 100 degrees would double, and the average number of days that feel hotter than 105 would quadruple by mid-century, which starts in 2036, the study says.

This extreme heat will include days that are so hot a heat index can’t be measured, the study says, and more than a third of the country will have one of these days a year.

The heat index is measured by a combination of temperature and humidity to determine how hot it feels outside, according to the study.

In North Carolina about 4.7 million people would face these “off-the-charts” days for “the equivalent of a week or more per year” by the end of the century, the study said.

The study was done by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group of scientists, analysts and policy experts that study environmental issues including heat, sea levels and emissions, the organization’s website says.

A different study done by Climate Central and published in June found nearly all 244 cities analyzed had more abnormally hot days than they did in the 1970s and discussed the health risks associated with these hotter days.

Not only does extreme heat result in 600 deaths in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC, the heat can also bring with it pesky, disease-carrying insects that also pose a health threat to people, the study said.

Researchers with the Union of Concerned Scientists say this extreme heat increase can be limited by keeping “global average warming” below 3.6 degrees.

This means the “global average temperature” would increase by less than 3.6 degrees, the study said.

To keep it this low, carbon emissions would need to decrease and energy efficiency would need to increase, the study said. There would also need to be investment in “land use and forest management practices that help store carbon in soils, trees, and vegetation.”

Doing so would prevent North Carolina from having “off-the-charts” days by the end of the century, the study says.

The study said “bold action” is required to “limit the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events in the future.”

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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