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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ: http://kjzz.org/science

Two-Thirds of Americans Face More Extreme Heat Days than in Previous Decades

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Maya Springhawk Robnett
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KAWC Colorado River Public Media
Desert on the U.S./Mexico Border near Yuma, AZ

A new analysis shows nearly two-thirds of Americans are experiencing an increased number of extreme heat days.  For the Arizona Science Desk, Maya Springhawk Robnett reports…

The analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental organization, uses data comparing the period between 2007 and 2016 to the years between 1961 and 1990.   210 million Americans experienced a greater number of extreme heat days in the past 10 years than they did during those previous decades.

"You're almost already at the livable threshold..."

Juanita Constible with the NRDC said the future looks grim for those who live in desert regions.

“You’re almost already at the livable threshold,” Constible explained. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of additional heat to make desert communities really dangerous.  People with air conditioning are pretty safe but homeless people, people that work outside like members of the military or farmworkers are at incredible risk of heat-related illnesses and death.”

Constible said in the short-term, communities need to have early-warning systems for extreme heat days and access to cooling centers.  Over the long-term, she said, the nation needs to find ways to cut back the carbon pollution that is the root cause of the warming.

93% of Arizona’s population faces at least nine more than expected extreme summer heat days annually.   

Severe heat is the number one cause of U.S. weather fatalities.  More than 65,000 Americans visit the emergency room each summer due to heat-related illnesses.

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