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New research points to more heat and humidity for the Southeast

Areas that suffer from extreme humid-heat events will see more of these events as climate change continues
As global temperatures increase, areas in the Southeastern United States will be exposed to...
As global temperatures increase, areas in the Southeastern United States will be exposed to more humid-heat extremes each year.(WITN Weather)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 11:52 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Over June, July, and August, we see an abundance of heat, humidity and resulting thunderstorms. It’s the trifecta that’s synonymous with summers here in the East. Once it’s here, it’s here to stay, often stretching through September and into October. According to a new study, we may be seeing more of the extended heat and humidity over the coming decades. A team of researchers out of Washington State University (WSU) has completed its analysis of humid-heat events and where they strike the most.

Most climate change research focused on heat extremes deal with dry heat. This is to be expected as dry air will see its temperatures fluctuate faster when exposed to different heating/cooling forces. Dry air can also reach higher temperatures when unencumbered by high humidity. However, because of a warming climate, we are seeing higher humidity globally. And the team from WSU indicates that the increasing heat and humidity in areas already exposed to dangerous humid-heat events like us here in Eastern NC (Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories) will lead to more of these events.

“Increases in the occurrence of humid-heat were strongest over highly populous regions in South and Southeast Asia and southeastern U.S. where changes in dry-heat frequency, as measured by temperature alone, are small or non-significant,” said study coauthor Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the WSU Vancouver School of the Environment.

This increase will create problems on multiple levels. People who are sensitive to heat or are without access to air conditioning will be faced with increased health risks. Rain will become heavier as clouds will be fueled by higher humidity, leading to increased flood risks. And those who work outdoors in the heat will be forced to adjust work hours.

An explainer created by NOAA highlighting what to look for and what to do when temperatures...
An explainer created by NOAA highlighting what to look for and what to do when temperatures rise too high.(NOAA)

“We show that strong increases in extreme heat frequency are accompanied by an expansion of the number of months during which they occur, which has consequences for human health and outdoor activities in these regions,” said Singh. If you are ever feeling ill or ‘off’ because of the heat, be sure to seek a shaded area and contact emergency responders. For more information on the study, you can go here.

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