The latest analysis of historical weather data and climate change projections shows that more intense temperatures lie ahead.
According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, climate change may by the end of the century bring weather that feels hotter than 90 degrees to Skagit County up to 12 days a year.
That’s one finding from the study published this week in the journal Environmental Research Communications. The nonprofit also released a report on the subject of dangerous heat.
The study used what’s called the heat index, which accounts for temperature and humidity to determine the potential impacts of heat on health.
The heat index is what’s used in the “feels like” section of weather forecast apps.
When temperatures feel hotter than 90 degrees, an increase is seen in reports of heat strokes and heart attacks, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists report “Killer Heat in the United States.”
Of the 12 days per year Skagit County could see heat that feels above 90 degrees, two days could reach a level that feels above 100 degrees and one above 105 degrees.
Polly Dubbel, Environmental Health Program Manager at Skagit County Public Health, said those temperatures can impact health, particularly among those at high risk such as the elderly and those with existing health conditions.
The report also highlighted heightened health risks for those who work outdoors.
“With the number and intensity of hot days projected to climb steeply ... outdoors workers already at elevated risk of heat stress — including construction workers, farmworkers, landscapers, military personnel, police officers, postal workers, road crews, and others — would face greater challenges,” it states.
In the future, those in occupations where they work outdoors may have to halt their work over longer periods of time or may be advised to stay home or seek out cooler places.
“In past heat events we have provided information on public locations with air conditioning that can serve as cooling shelter during the day, such as the Cascade Mall and libraries,” Dubbel said.
While not immune from the increasing heat, the Northwest is projected to remain the coolest region of the United States.
“By the end of the century, with no action to reduce global emissions, parts of Florida and Texas would experience the equivalent of at least five months per year on average when the ‘feels like’ temperature exceeds 100 degrees,” a news release regarding the study states.
That means although the Northwest will see an increase in heat it may become a haven for those seeking escape from potentially lethal temperatures elsewhere.
“Only a few mountainous regions would remain extreme heat refuges by the century’s end,” the release states.
The report states there is time to limit global warming and thereby curb how much temperatures climb.
“If we fail to act or act too slowly, the children of today, across swaths of the country, could reach retirement in a world where simply spending time outdoors in the warm months is an intolerably risky health hazard,” it states.