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Eastern Kansas will likely suffer 'off the charts' heat in the next 30 years, new study predicts

There is an excessive heat warning for this weekend as high heat and humidity will drive the index up to 110 degrees in some parts of Kansas City.
Jeff Roberson
/
AP
There is an excessive heat warning for this weekend as high heat and humidity will drive the index up to 110 degrees in some parts of Kansas City.

A new study modeling heat across the United States shows much of Kansas will be hit with extremely high heat index temperatures as the Midwest deals with the effects of climate change.

Kansas City is one of the top five metropolitan areas expected to experience heat index temperatures above 125 degrees in the coming decades, according to a new heat risk model.

“This is sort of an emerging phenomena of days that are really off the charts of the scales that we've developed to measure these kinds of things,” said Bradley Wilson, the director of research and development at First Street Foundation, the New York-based climate research non-profit that developed the model.

The study uses land and air temperature data and climate models to predict the heat index temperatures over the next 30 years and how those temperatures will affect specific properties. It allows people to search an address and see their home’s heat risk factors.

“We're not trying to say that you're going to be boiling to death, all summer,” said Wilson. “There might be a day in the summer in your area where you know it really is not very safe to spend a lot of time outside.”

 This map shows the extreme heat belt where counties are at risk of at least one extreme danger day — heat index over 125 degrees — in the next 30 years.
First Street Foundation
/
This map shows the extreme heat belt where counties are at risk of at least one extreme danger day — heat index over 125 degrees — in the next 30 years.

According to the study, the eastern side of Kansas is part of an extreme heat belt that will stretch from the Gulf Coast all the way up to southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Kansas City is already known to be an urban heat island, and people in the metro began to feel the effects of this heat belt with high temperatures in July.

“Some of those heat waves basically formed this dome over the Midwest,” said Wilson. “The Midwest has a bunch of factors that are contributing, but at its core it's a combination of both high temperatures and humidity values that create these temperatures that feel much hotter than the actual temperature.”

 This map shows the predicted increase in the number of dangerous days between 2023 and 2053– days when the heat index is above 100 degrees – across the United States. Parts of Missouri will see an increase of up to 41 more dangerous days.
First Street Foundation
/
This map shows the predicted increase in the number of dangerous days between 2023 and 2053– days when the heat index is above 100 degrees – across the United States. Parts of Missouri will see an increase of up to 41 more dangerous days.

These extreme heat days are a particular concern for outdoor workers and populations that are susceptible to health problems caused by heat.

“Cooling infrastructure is something that is becoming an increasing consideration in a lot of places,” said Wilson. “When you do have heat waves come through, multiple days in a row of extremely high heat, that can be a risk for vulnerable populations.”

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Eva Tesfaye
Eva Tesfaye is a 2020 Kroc Fellow. She started in October 2020 and will spend the year rotating through different parts of NPR.