Tri-State included in projected ‘extreme heat belt’

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Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Tri-State is one of many regions expected to face extreme heat in the coming decades.

A new study from a from a national climate research non-profit, First Street Foundation, has outlined a model for an extreme heat belt that will form in the nation in the coming years. That belt runs right through the Tri-State.

The study consolidated data to project heat risks in precise local areas of the country.

The proposed “Extreme Heat Belt” refers to a region from the Gulf of Mexico straight up to the great lakes.

CEO of First Street Foundation Matthew Eby said the region would face a gradual increase that would change the weather landscape.

“As extreme as we thought [the heat] was this year, we will look back and think that this was one of the best summers,” he said. “Because the temperatures in comparison will be very, very low.”

A large area is expected to see at least one day a year with a heat index over 125 degrees in the next 30 years.

Their data show that average temperatures are going to shift to be higher, and Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky can all expect nearly three times as many days with extreme heat each year.

Eby said all of that will affect infrastructure because of overheated building materials, agriculture because of crop yields and heat stress, and most importantly, individual health.

Agronomist for the Vanderburgh County Purdue Extension Office Hans Schmitz said the heating climate will also start to affect agriculture.

“Plants do respire,” he explained. “They breathe just like we do. They breathe more when it’s hot, and the more they breathe, the less resources they have to commit to growth.”

He said that can cause some plants to never ripen if heat increases for long stretches.

He said that it’s important to keep in mind that heat index is not the true temperature but rather what you feel.

That means major crops like corn and soybeans are bred to withstand temperatures within the range First Street Foundation’s study outlined; however, they may produce lower yields.

He said over time, crops grown in the Midwest could start growing further north, while the Tri-State may consider plants traditionally grown in the south.

To prepare for the coming heat, he said livestock farmers should focus on accommodations to keep their animals cool and healthy. He said shade, fans and watering holes can go a long way.

For crops, he said to expect more research and development of heat tolerant species.

Eby said the goal of the research isn’t to frighten anyone, but to look at an issue and then look forward.

“We have the data,” he said. “It’s all about understanding it and then being solution focused with knowing what’s coming.”

The most important preparation one can make is for themselves and their loved ones.

Heat can be dangerous, so Eby said to make sure you’re prepared with air conditioning and plans to find a cool place for when extreme heat comes to your area.

To learn more about your area’s heat risk, you can visit riskfactor.com.

They have their full study posted on their website firststreet.org.