The 2019 summer season was unbearably hot for many Texans, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. However, this year was just the tip of the iceberg, according to experts. The Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Oakland, CA, recently published a report titled “Killer Heat in the United States,” revealing that the number of days with extreme heat in Texas will likely triple by 2050.
Dr. Kristina Dahl, co-author of the study and senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Oakland, CA, explains, “The results of our Killer Heat analysis show that with no action to reduce global heat-trapping emissions, Texas would go from having an average of 5 days per year with a heat index (or “feels like” temperature) above 105 F historically, to 44 such days per year by mid-century.”
“The reason for this is that as we continue to burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere,” Dahl says. “Global emissions of these gases have been rising since the Industrial Revolution, and unless we make concerted efforts to switch to carbon-free energy systems, they will continue to rise and warm our atmosphere.”
One of the consequences of this warming is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme heat in Texas and other states.
The study examines the heat index patterns of several U.S. cities. For example, Austin historically has 5 days with a heat index over 105 degrees in an average year. If no action is taken, the city will have 59 such days by mid-century. If slow action is taken, the city will have 42 days with a heat index above 105 degrees.
On average, Dallas has 8 days with a heat index over 105 degrees annually. If no action is taken by mid-century, the city will have 100 such days. If rapid action is taken, the city will have 48 days with a heat index above 105 degrees.