No surprise here: Riverside will be among the hottest counties

California, along with Arizona, Florida and Texas, make up a new list of the top 20 counties projected to see the most days per year with temperatures above 100° F, according to a new study.

In 2023, the roughly 180,000 residents of Imperial County in Southern California are projected to experience 102 “dangerous” days with a heat index exceeding 100, according to nonprofit First Street Foundation’s peer-reviewed model. By 2053, that number is 116.

It’s not just California, either. First Street’s study found that in three decades a so-called “extreme heat belt” will include Northern Texas and states bordering the Gulf, stretching north to Illinois, Indiana, and even up to Wisconsin.

The report shows that extreme heat events are expected to impact 8 million Americans in 2023. By 2053, however, 107 million Americans — nearly one third of the US population — are expected to be exposed to extreme heat events.

The study found that “dangerous” days occur more often in the southern half of the contiguous U.S., but especially in Florida and Texas. Starr County, Texas, topped all others in 2022 with 109 days above the threshold. Imperial, California is expected to have 53 consecutive dangerous days this year, the report states.

Here are the California counties projected to see the most days with a heat index over 100°.

Following are the counties by rank, followed by Days above 100°F in 2023 and in 2053

  1. Imperial, 102 and 116
  2. Riverside, 39 and 55
  3. Fresno, 26 and 43
  4. Tulare, 26 and 43
  5. Kings, 26 and 42
  6. Madera, 22 and 38
  7. Glenn, 22 and 38
  8. Sutter, 21 and 37
  9. Tehama, 21 and 36
  10. Kern, 20 and 35

The model takes into account a number of factors including land surface temperatures, tree and other canopy cover, the presence of concrete and other impervious surfaces and the proximity to water. Researchers built the model under an established warming scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions reach their peak around 2040 and then begin to decline.

“Increasing temperatures are broadly discussed as averages, but the focus should be on the extension of the extreme tail events expected in a given year,” said Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of First Street Foundation. “We need to be prepared for the inevitable, that a quarter of the country will soon fall inside the Extreme Heat Belt with temperatures exceeding 125°F and the results will be dire.”

In 2023, 8.1 million Americans living in 50 counties will experience temperatures of at least 125 degrees, the highest classification on the National Weather Service’s Heat Index – “Extreme Danger,” according to researchers.

Three decades later, the same model shows that climate change will cause 1,023 counties – home to 107.6 million people – to see temperatures rise above 125 degrees.

In July, days after nearly half the country — 154.6 million people — sweated through a blistering heat wave, the Biden Administration unveiled, which includes maps, forecasts and health advice. The government can’t lower temperatures in the short-term, but it can shrink heat’s death toll, officials said.

“July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth and summers are getting hotter and deadlier,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Rick Spinrad was quoted as saying in Yahoo News. “The annual average temperature of the contiguous U.S. has already warmed over the past few decades and is projected to rise by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 to 5 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century.”

But officials said even though heat is the No. 1 weather killer, and warming is worsening, deaths can still be prevented. That’s the purpose of the website.

It’s important that the website shows that heat isn’t just a problem for today but in the future.

The mission of the First Street Foundation is to make climate risk information accessible, easy to understand and actionable for individuals, governments, and industry. It has created so individuals can assess the risks of flooding, fire, and extreme heat to their own property rather than relying on public data that may be too broad to reveal dangers that effect individual properties or on scientific journals that may be inaccessible to private citizens.

Along with the report, the nonprofit has made an online tool available here for users to search U.S. addresses and see their estimated heat risk.


Image Sources

  • Thermometer heat: Shutterstock