Experts say recent Midwest heat is a strong sign of climate change

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - We’re halfway through yet another week of 90° temperatures, and experts at Indiana University tell us that temperatures could rise five to six degrees on average over the next thirty years.

Director of the IU Environmental Resilience Institute Gabe Filippelli considers the recent heat to be a bellwether of climate change. That said, tying any given heat wave directly to climate change can be a challenge. After all, we’ve always had heat waves and cold spells.

But the latest trends are concerning. Filippelli notes that the repetition and severity of the recent heat is consistent with climate change. Climate scientists are able to weigh the probability of heat waves occurring with or without climate change, and Filippelli says researches have found that the probability of these heat waves is very low without climate change.

The human impacts of heat waves are large. A projection from the Environmental Resilience Institute predicts hundreds of heat deaths in Indiana by 2050 to 2080. Temperatures this high cause even more stress on the body when the humidity is elevated. High humidity makes it more difficult to sweat, which makes it harder for the body to cool off.

Heat is an even bigger issue for low-income areas, where people can’t easily afford air conditioning. Heat waves can turn deadly much more easily in those areas around the world.

As for what we should do about climate change, Filippelli stresses the importance of lowering carbon emissions. The Environmental Resilience Institute is also working to map extreme heat on a local level, which helps communities take action. That may mean adding trees and parks, which can lower the temperature in cities.

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