‘Extreme Heat Belt’ Emerging in US


A new study suggests the US is acquiring a new geographical “belt” in the coming decades, and it is very much an unwanted one. The report from the nonprofit First Street Foundation foresees the emergence of an “extreme heat belt” by 2053. The location of the belt, which covers about a quarter of the nation, may be surprising, notes NBC News (which has a map). It begins in Texas, not so surprising, but extends north into the Great Lakes region. Cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Tulsa, and Chicago would be covered, per Axios. By the foundation’s forecast, residents in this area can expect heat index temperatures of at least 125 degrees at times—the designation referring to what the temperature “feels like” thanks to humidity and air temperature combined, per NBC.

“How far north it stretched—I think a lot of people just hearing southern Wisconsin, Chicago and those areas being part of the extreme heat belt is surprising,” says the foundation’s chief research officer, Jeremy Porter. The report touches on changes in store for the entire US because of rising temperatures. Some highlights:

  • About 8 million Americans are currently at risk for “extreme heat” (a heat index above 125), but the number is expected to balloon to 107 million by 2053.
  • The biggest shift in local temperatures is projected for Miami-Dade County in Florida. The region now sees seven days a year with a heat index of 103, but the number is expected to increase to 34 days in 30 years.
  • On average, any given community’s seven hottest days will increase to 18 days by 2053.
  • The Southeast and Gulf regions would see the biggest growth in the number of “dangerous days,” meaning days with a heat index north of 100.
  • The foundation has a “risk factor” tool, in which you can plug in your zip code to see what might be in store.

(Read more heat stories.)