GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – OK, it’s mid-August. We expect the temperatures to be high. We know our highs and lows are higher than they used to be.
And now we can see – for each of our ZIP codes – exactly how bad the picture could get in the next, oh, three decades.
First Street Foundation, a nonprofit that assesses threats from all manner of factors based on national data, published on Monday its assessment of the Heat Risk. And that data can be searched to discern exactly how bad the threat is for the neighborhood.
One thing the overview tells us is that, by 2050, 2 out of 3 of us will experience perilous heat waves, with some of our neighbors in the South facing as much as 70 consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees.
That’s from an analysis of First Street’s report that was conducted by The Washington Post, which said that, as of today, 46% of Americans will experience at least three consecutive days of 100-plus degrees, and in 30 years that will grow to 53%.
In North Carolina, that risk expands from virtually the entire state, based on conditions this year, to include by 2053 the mountain and coastal areas that might avoid the threat for now. The percentage of the population exposed to dangerous heat would grow from about 85% to about 95%.
About the Greensboro area
To understand how all this computes, we used the central residential ZIP code for Greensboro (27408) and ran it through First Street’s data. We found that our risk for extended high heat was on the rise and would continue to rise even more dramatically.
We found that our chance of a 3-plus-day heat wave is about 48% for 2023, based on conditions this year, but by 2053 that number would grow to 85%.
And get this: 30 years ago, that percentage of likelihood was 15%.
So the likelihood roughly has tripled in the past 30 years and will nearly double again in the next 30. We also found those trends to have only slight variations across the 14 counties of the Piedmont Triad.
How high does it go?
First Street designates each area with a “hot day” temperature, which is what you know to be the “feels like” temperature that includes the actual thermometer reading plus a humidity factor. For the ZIP code 27408, that’s 103 degrees. The evaluation is based on consecutive days of these high temperatures.
The report says that the higher heat is increasing because rising humidity is causing “a greater amount of moisture to be released into the air, and because moist, humid air has a greater capacity for holding heat, this results in a cycle of building heat that prolongs the duration and intensity of heat events.”
This 27408 ZIP code is expected to have seven such days this year, but if you use 100 degrees as your measuring stick, the area would have 14 days this year and 28 days in 30 years. There were five days 30 years ago. Typical high temperatures are in the 90s.
Properties in ‘danger’
First Street said these data put 8,563 properties “in danger” because of a variety of factors that cause “heat islands.” Think of how much hotter unshaded, concrete/asphalt areas are compared to places with grass and shade trees. The concrete reflects and expands the effect of heat.
“While an area’s heat trends are primarily determined by its latitude, exposure to sunlight, elevation, and climate, there are a number of factors that can exacerbate the effects of heat across an area, creating what are known as heat islands,” First Street’s report said. “Daytime maximum temperatures within a heat island can vary by as much as 7 degrees from the surrounding neighborhood or city, and more importantly these areas have a notable ability to retain heat through the nighttime, greatly exacerbating the cost of cooling for homes and businesses located in a heat island. “
First Street relates those threats to factors such as construction materials (think insulation), city planning and layout (think green space), distance to water and vegetation and human activities (vehicular traffic and energy consumption).
First Street says this 27408 ZIP code uses about 14.7% of its electricity for cooling. Energy consumption would increase by about 11 days annually in 30 years.
Across the Triad
Using the analysis provided for 27408 as a barometer, we thought we should compare the findings to a sampling of ZIP codes across the Piedmont Triad.
This is based on the chance of a 3-plus-day heat wave as predicted for 2023 (based on current conditions) and for 2053. For example, Montgomery County had the highest starting point in 1993, but Reidsville is expecting the most significant rise by 2053.
The less-urban areas largely showed up better, and please note the “hot day” temperature varies by area, too. Sparta and Mount Airy rated in the Moderate for Heat Factor.
You can go to First Street’s site to enter any ZIP code and get a detailed analysis of the area. There also are evaluations for the risk of flood and fire.
ZIP 1993 2023 2053
27408 15% 48% 85%
27107 14% 46% 85%
27006 13% 46% 85%
27320 15% 48% 87%
27016 14% 46% 85%
27030 11% 49% 84%
28675 10% 47% 84%
27215 16% 49% 83%
27379 16% 47% 86%
27295 14% 47% 84%
27205 18% 47% 83%
28697 10% 47% 81%
27055 12% 46% 85%
27229 19% 50% 81%
Elsewhere in the U.S.
The Washington Post’s analysis found that Miami-Dade County in Florida was likely to have the most extreme change, with 91 days above 100 degrees by 2053.
“We know we have a heat problem here. This is right in line with what we expect,” Jane Gilbert, Miami-Dade’s chief heat officer, told the Post.
“Even more severe temperatures are expected to hit a swath of the country stretching from northern Texas and Louisiana to Illinois and Indiana,” The Post found. “Though the central United States is not typically thought of as bearing the brunt of summertime heat, First Street’s analysis found that tens of millions more people living in this region are likely to see a heat index above 125 degrees by mid-century. The group calls this area an ‘extreme heat belt.’”