North Carolina temperatures will feel like 125°F by 2053, study shows

Some places will feel it worse.
On July 31, viewer John from the Brooks Run Happy Team (@j4clt on Instagram) captured this...
On July 31, viewer John from the Brooks Run Happy Team (@j4clt on Instagram) captured this uptown view of Charlotte on a Saturday night.(John from the Brooks Run Happy Team (@j4clt on Instagram))
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 10:55 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Axios) - More than a third of North Carolina’s counties, most of them in the Coastal Plain, will have days where it feels like 125°F by 2053.

And nearly all 100 counties can expect more days when the air temperature alone hits 100 degrees — in some places they’ll see two additional weeks of 100-degree days each year.

  • That’s according to a new hyperlocal analysis of current and future extreme heat events published Monday by the nonprofit First Street Foundation.
Counties expected to experience heat indices above 125°F by 2053
Counties expected to experience heat indices above 125°F by 2053(Note: Shaded counties are those that will, on average, have 0.5 days or more at or above a 125F° heat index in 2053; Data: First Street Foundation; Map: Axios Visuals)

Note: Shaded counties are those that will, on average, have 0.5 days or more at or above a 125F° heat index in 2053; Data: First Street Foundation; Map: Axios Visuals » Click for full map

Why it matters: All those tales North Carolinians hear from their Memaws and great-grandpappies about long-ago days burning up in the Southern heat — they’re nothing compared to what future generations will endure.

  • And those who would feel it worst in our state are east of Interstate 95, in already-baking rural flatlands where poverty is prevalent, population is plummeting, and hurricanes are almost familial guests every fall.

» Related story: Earthquakes continue to hit North Carolina, USGS says

What’s happening: The eastern side of the state will be at the center of an “extreme heat” region that cups the southeastern coast from Delmarva to coastal Georgia.

  • “Extreme heat” is defined as having a maximum heat index, or how the air feels from the combination of air temperature and relative humidity, of 125°F.
  • In the Charlotte region, Mecklenburg County isn’t on the list of those expected to see days that feel like 125, but Union and all counties east of here are.

The big picture: In just 30 years, climate change will cause the Lower 48 states to be a far hotter and more precarious place to be during the summer, Axios’ Andrew Freedman reports.

  • But some places will feel it worse.

This report, which is based on First Street’s peer-reviewed heat model, identifies the impact of increasing temperatures at a property level, and how the frequency, duration, and intensity of extremely hot days will change over the next 30 years from a changing climate.

  • The number of Americans currently exposed to “extreme heat” is just 8 million, the report shows, but during the next three decades, that number is expected to balloon to 107 million.
  • The Gulf and Southeast will see the highest chances and longest duration of exposure to what are termed “dangerous days,” with a heat index greater than 100°F, the report found.

Threat level: The study also calculates the warming temperatures’ effect on cooling costs.

  • It currently costs about $894 million to cool North Carolina’s homes each year. By 2053 that number climbs to $1.018 billion — a $123 million increase, the seventh-largest increase in the United States.

The bottom line: Turns out the old cliche, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” is only partially true. It’s all of it, and it’s only going to get worse.

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