Heat index

NWS GRAPHIC

The National Weather Service’s Heat Index. “Feels-like” temperatures in the red area are considered extremely dangerous, posing a high risk of heat-related illness and even death.

By BOB MUDGE

Venice Gondolier Senior Writer

Hot enough for you? No?

Just wait.

According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Killer Heat in the United States,” based on an analysis of 18 climate models, those who like it hot are in for a treat, if they live long enough.

In the period from 1971 to 2000, Sarasota County averaged 152 days a year with a heat index — “feels like” temperature — above 90 degrees, the report states.

But if no steps are taken to address climate change, the report says, the county will average 185 such days per year from 2036 to 2065 and 199 from 2070 to 2099.

The heat index is based on temperature and humidity. A temp of 90 at 40% humidity feels like 91, but so does a temp of 82 degrees at 90% humidity, on the National Weather Service scale.

If that doesn’t sound too bad, this might.

The county averaged 38 days of “feels like” temps over 100 degrees from 1971 to 2000. The number jumps to 163 days from 2070 to 2099 if nothing changes, the report states.

It gets worse.

From 1971 to 2000 there was an average of five days a year with a heat index over 105 degrees. The average predicted for 2070-2099 is 135 per year.

And the county had no days of “off the charts” heat previously — days when “conditions are so extreme they exceed the upper limit of the heat index scale,” at 127 degrees or higher. There will be an average of 21 such days per year in 2070-2099, according to the report.

Nationwide, the forecast is for four times as many days over 100 degrees and eight times as many over 105 degrees by late century.

Instead of counting the number of hot days per year, the report states, extreme heat conditions “would need to be measured in weeks or months by mid-century.”

“This heat would cause large areas of the United States to become dangerously hot and would threaten the health, lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Such heat could also make droughts and wildfires more severe, harm ecosystems, cause crops to fail and reduce the reliability of the infrastructure we depend on.”

The report says that reducing carbon emissions would lower the number of days of extreme heat conditions significantly.

By shifting away from fossil fuels, increasing vehicle fuel economy, developing and implementing low-carbon technology and helping less-developed nations reduce their carbon emissions, among other steps, global temperature rise might be held to 3.6 degrees rather than 8 degrees by 2100.

In Sarasota County that would mean only 60 days with a heat index over 105 instead of 135 and no days of “off the charts” heat.

Even then, the report states, federal, state and local governments need to create heat adaption plans and heat emergency response plans to head off the threats increasing heat levels pose.

There should be a heat warning system, to alert people when conditions approach the danger level, it states.

Utilities need to harden their systems against interruptions related to heat and be precluded from turning off a customer’s electricity during a heat wave.

Heat-protective standards for workers should be adopted, as should planning standards that encourage energy efficiency, landscaping that has a cooling effect and the use of infrastructure materials that can withstand sustained high temperatures.

Locally, Goal One of the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 Strategic Plan is “Keep Venice Beautiful and Eco-Friendly.”

Policy 4 calls for it to “reduce carbon footprint, consumption of energy and protect the environment.” It sets two objectives:

1. Use energy conserving tools and tactics for public assets and introduce innovative means to reduce energy use annually with an annual goal reduction of 10% in electricity and 5% in fuel.

2. Update the land development regulations to allow for conservation and preservation of land and natural resources.

You can read the UCS report at UCSUSA.org/killer-heat.

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