WENATCHEE — Chelan and Douglas counties will experience an increase in extreme heat events over the next century if nothing is done about carbon emissions.
That was the finding of a report issued June 16 by the Union of Concerned Scientists called, “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days.”
The report looks at how often people will experience temperatures that “feel” above 90, 100 and 105 degrees by the mid-century and late century, if nothing is done to reduce heat-trapping emissions. The study focuses on the heat index or what the temperature feels likes in relation to humidity.
By the end of the century, Douglas County residents will experience 27 days a year with over 90-degree temperatures, six days of over 100-degree temperatures and two days of over 105-degree temperatures. The historic average for Douglas County has been seven days a year of over 90-degree temperatures.
Chelan County residents will experience nine days a year of over 90-degree heat and one day a year of over 100-degree temperatures, according to the report. The historic average for Chelan County has been two days a year of over 90-degree heat and none of over 100-degree temperatures.
People can look at the report and use the interactive map by going to wwrld.us/2YXgNam.
This information is important because temperatures above 90 degrees pose dangerous health risks to humans, according to the report. The following can happen as temperatures increase:
- At above 90 degrees, outdoor workers become susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
- At over 100 degrees, children, elderly, adults, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions are at heightened risk.
- At above 105 degrees, anyone, regardless of physical health, is at risk of heat-related illness.
- At off-the-chart temperatures, any level of exposure is extremely dangerous and can likely lead to illness or death.
The increase in Chelan and Douglas counties is fairly mild in comparison to some of the other counties in Washington state, according to the report.
Walla Walla County will go from a historic average of 17 days of over 90-degree temperatures to 74 by the end of the century, with 32 days over 100 degrees, 16 over 106 degrees and three days with temperatures off the charts.
Statewide, according to the report, if the world can’t keep temperatures from warming by 2 degrees the following will happen:
- Washington overall will experience 17 days a year of over 90-degree temperatures by mid-century and 35 by the end of the century. The average historically has been four days.
- By the end of the century more than 860,000 people in Washington will be exposed to heat over 90 degrees for about two months a year and 440,000 people will be exposed to 100-degree temperatures for about one month a year.
Drastic measures need to be done now to prevent the impacts of climate change, according to the report. But if action is not taken states are advised to do the following:
- Invest in heat-resilient infrastructure
- Create heat emergency response plans
- Expand on programs for low and fixed-income cooling assistance
- Create safety standards for workers during extreme heat events