Weathering Tomorrow: Houston's dangerous heat waves and their deadly impact

Elyse Smith Image
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Weathering Tomorrow: Houston's dangerous heat waves
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In this session of Weathering Tomorrow, a collaborative project with ABC Owned Television Stations, we look into Houston's dangerous heat waves.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houstonians aren't strangers to the extreme heat Texas summers can bring. This summer alone, southeast Texas has experienced at least four heat waves where heat index values, or even temperatures, were above 100 degrees for at least five days.

The data team at ABC News projects that in the coming years, these heat waves will be more common and last longer as a direct result of climate change.

Data examined by ABC News found heat waves in Harris County, where the heat index reaches over 100 degrees, will increase from an average of 16 days now to 31 days by 2050. That's over a 90% increase.

And the impacts of extreme heat could be deadly.

Already in Harris County this summer, at least seven people have died from the heat. Officials stress the importance of staying cool and protecting yourself from the extreme heat. And to do that, we'll have to run our air conditioning even more each summer.

Jesson Bradshaw is CEO of Energy Ogre, a company that keeps an eye on the energy market. He says electricity costs in Texas could continue to increase.

"There's no question in my mind that we will continue to see the trend that we've seen here for the last 20 years of increasing electricity demand and use over time," Bradshaw said.

The data analyzed by ABC predicts energy consumption of air conditioners is expected to increase by 157 million kWh in Harris County alone by the year 2050.

That adds up to an estimated total of $16.5 million more per year.

SEE ALSO: Sea temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico rising as a result of warming climate

"I suspect as time moves forward, there will need to be an introduction of, 'Hey, it's just gonna be far more expensive for you to, you know, run your washing machine when it's maximum demand time,' so schedule that for a different period of time," Bradshaw added.

In the meantime, we'll have to continue to weather these heat waves together.

How will climate change impact your health, your safety, and your property? That's the mission of our new project, Weathering Tomorrow.

The impacts are different from city to city and - sometimes - neighborhood to neighborhood across Houston. You can visit to look up the dangers where you live from rising heat, wind, flooding, and wildfire. Or you can look up how many days temperatures will rise above 100 degrees in your zip code, for example.

Those are among the goals of our collaborative project with ABC Owned Television Stations across the country, looking into how the changes will alter the way we live, work, and play in each community.

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