AUSTIN (KXAN) – As Central Texas gets ready for its hottest stretch of the year (so far), it should come as no surprise the number of days with a heat index above 90º in Austin is rising.
According to Climate Central, Austin now experiences an average of 23 more days with a heat index above 90º each year than it did 40 years ago, due to climate change.
As it turns out, the South and Southeast United States are seeing the greatest increases in the number of days with heat indices above 90º. Here in Central Texas, we’re among some of the areas seeing the biggest increase in these higher heat days per year.
The 90º heat index mark is important, because a heat index above that can cause heat stroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion, according to the metrics from NOAA. The more time we spend above this heat index, the more at risk we are for heat-related illnesses.
Now here in Texas and other parts of the South and Southeast, we have a higher tolerance for heat and higher availability of air conditioning than other parts of the United States.
Usually it takes a heat index of 105º or higher here in Texas to lead to peak hospitalizations. Notice the Northwest and the West are the most sensitive to heat and have a lower threshold for peak hospitalizations.
As you can see, other parts of the country see peak hospitalizations at much lower heat indices than we see here in Texas.