Texas is currently in the midst of a heatwave that has claimed lives and broken temperature records. The extreme heat has made it difficult for young children, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions to cope. But how much hotter could summers get in years to come?
What’s causing the heatwave?
The heatwave in Texas is primarily caused by a “heat dome,” a ridge of high pressure parked over the Southern US that traps hot ocean air like a lid. According to climatologists, there are also other short-term contributing factors such as the unusually warm Gulf of Mexico and the summer solstice.
The long-term trends of climate change in Texas
Texas has warmed between one-half and one degree Fahrenheit in the past century. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts that summers in Texas will become increasingly hot and dry, creating problems for agriculture and human health. The National Integrated Heat Health Information System’s Climate Explorer tool predicts that Austin and Travis County’s average daily maximum temperature in June could rise to 99.7F between 2060 and 2090 if no steps are taken to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The human cost of extreme heat
Extreme heat is currently the deadliest natural hazard in the US, with young children and adults over the age of 65 among the most vulnerable to heat-related illness and death. The current heatwave appears to be worse than the two-decade high in 2022, with more than 275 people in Texas dying from heat-related illness last year. High air temperatures can cause heat stroke, and dehydration, and affect people’s cardiovascular and nervous systems.
How to cope with extreme heat
It’s essential to stay hydrated and avoid outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day. Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat can help reflect sunlight and keep you cool. It’s also crucial to stay in air-conditioned spaces or use fans to circulate air if possible.
Infrastructure upgrades to mitigate the effects of climate change
Upgrades to wind and solar resources in Texas and rooftop solar panels or backup batteries can help lighten the load on the transmission system during peak hours. However, these upgrades come at a cost, and it’s crucial to ensure that they benefit everyone, including those who can’t afford the technology to help them adapt.
The future of Texas and climate migration
Climate change is expected to force millions of Americans to move inland and northward in what will be the largest migration in the country’s history. Whether Texas becomes too uncomfortably hot for humans to live in remains to be seen, but the highest temperature ever recorded in Texas was 120F, just one degree higher than the peak recorded in this heatwave.
In conclusion, extreme heat is a deadly natural hazard that’s becoming increasingly common in Texas due to climate change. It’s crucial to take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change and cope with extreme heat to protect vulnerable populations. Infrastructure upgrades could help people to cope with future heatwaves in the US, but they come at a cost. Climate migration is expected to be a significant issue in the coming decades, and it’s crucial to prepare for the future.