Much of the US Will Be an ‘Extreme Heat Belt’ by the 2050s

So you think it’s hot out there now? Consider the summer of 2053. That’s what researchers at First Street Foundation, a New York nonprofit that studies climate risk, have done in a report published today.

They predict that in three decades, more than 100 million Americans will live in an “extreme heat belt” where at least one day a year, the heat index will exceed 125° Fahrenheit (52° Celsius) — the top level of the National Weather Service’s heat index, or the extreme danger level. (The index combines temperature and humidity to arrive at how it feels when you go outside.)

Along with the report, First Street has released a free web tool that lets users search US addresses to determine their heat risk.

The future heat belt is a huge swath of the country that includes the Southeast and the area just west of the Appalachian Mountains, stretching from Texas and Louisiana all the way up through Missouri and Iowa to the Wisconsin border. This is not the part of the nation we most associate with heat, but since it is inland there are “no coastal influences to mitigate extreme temperatures,” and many communities “are not acclimated to warmer weather relative to their normal climate,” the report states.

The sharpest heat increase, however, will be felt in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where the hottest days now, those reaching 103°F, will increase in frequency from 7 days a year to 34 by 2053.

The findings are part of the sixth report by First Street to help Americans picture how warming will impact them at home. Previous reports looked at fire and floods, and the foundation made available fire and flood risk scores for every property in the contiguous US on its website.

Unlike those menaces, heat does not affect the survival of homes themselves and related insurance costs, so it does not have the same immediate threat to property value. But Matthew Eby, founder and chief executive of First Street, says he felt it was urgent to take on nonetheless.

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