If it feels like every summer in Southwest Florida gets a little bit hotter, you might be on to something.
Average annual temperatures continue to rise around the globe, and the Suncoast is no exception.
The Tampa area just witnessed its hottest July on record, and Sarasota-Bradenton saw its sixth warmest, the National Weather Service of Tampa Bay reported.
In Florida, eight out of 10 of the hottest years on record have occurred over the last decade, Southeast Regional Climate Center data show.
That trend is reflected in Southwest Florida. Though some years are cooler than others, average annual temperatures have gradually been rising.
The average annual temperature in Manatee County in 2021 was 73.9 degrees in 2021, up from 71.4 degrees in 1980, National Centers for Environmental Information data show. And 2015, 2019 and 2020 had higher annual averages, around 75 degrees.
Manatee County temperatures over the last year are up 3.1% over 20th century averages, the data shows. Sarasota County has seen similar increases.
Study warns of ‘dangerous heat days’
A study titled “Hazardous Heat” released Monday details some of the extreme temperature shifts and dangerous heat waves that the U.S. is likely to see over the next 30 years as climate change ramps up. The study is by New York-based nonprofit First Street Foundation, which is dedicated to defining America’s climate risk.
The study predicts Manatee County will see the second-highest increase in local hot days of any Florida county over the next 30 years, behind Collier. This year, Manatee County can expect seven days with “feels like” temperatures above 107 degrees, the study says. But by 2053, days at or above that temperature are predicted to climb to 29 a year — an increase of 314%.
The “dangerous heat days,” which the study defines as days with temperatures of over 100 degrees, are predicted to increase throughout Florida with the most drastic increases along the west coast, from Central to South Florida. Sarasota County ranks fifth on the list of counties expected to have the highest number of dangerous heat days by 2053. The study predicts Sarasota will go from 79 such days in 2023 to 112 dangerous heat days in 2053.
The foundation’s peer-reviewed heat model predicts an “Extreme Heat Belt” that will expose 13 central U.S. states, from Texas to Iowa, to the most extreme heat level shifts in the country. Meanwhile, the West Coast has the most likelihood of experiencing increasingly long stretches of local hot days.
Warming to continue
Globally, the annual temperature has been steadily increasing since the beginning of record-keeping, which started around 1880.
Some temperature fluctuation is natural or due to regional weather patterns. But scientists around the world attribute the biggest part of this change to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activity. Excess levels of these heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture have been building up since the Industrial Revolution.
The warming effect on the planet began to accelerate dramatically about four decades ago.
“Overall, the global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.14°F degrees per decade since 1880 and over twice that rate (0.32°F) since 1981,” the National Centers for Environmental Information’s 2021 Global Climate Report said.
In a dire report released one year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded an alarm. The global warming trend is set to continue at dangerous rates without dramatic action from policymakers around the globe, the report says.
“However, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change,” a statement on the report said at the time. “While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.”
Today marks one year since the release of the #IPCC #ClimateReport that confirmed for a fact:#Climatechange is rapid, widespread & intensifying & is the result of human activities.
WGI Report ️ https://t.co/7l6ZV7WIlq
PR ️ https://t.co/E0PCfNmxWk
— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) August 9, 2022
The House gave final passage last week to the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $375 billion in anti-climate change and green energy funding meant to bring the U.S. closer to its goal of cutting emissions 50% by 2030. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure this week. Some have celebrated the bill’s passage as a victory for climate change response, while critics of the bill have argued that it does not go far enough to reduce emissions and target the fossil fuel industry.
Check out the graph and map below for a look at the historical data on rising annual average temperatures in Southwest Florida.