Changing forecasts: sweltering nights and scorching days are becoming more frequent

ORLANDO, Florida. “Last week, in the Forecasting Change section, we talked about how the temperature “feels like” going up. This week, in the Predicting Change section, we look at increasing cooling needs as the climate warms.

As the Earth’s temperature rises, the frequency of scorching days and sweltering nights increases, resulting in a growing need for cooling in our homes, schools, offices and hospitals.

This cooling demand is measured by a metric called cooling degree days (CDD). CDD values ​​estimate the amount of cooling required to maintain a comfortable room temperature. These values ​​are calculated by taking the difference between the daily average outdoor temperature and the technical standard of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered the ideal indoor temperature.

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The need for cooling, as shown by the daily CDD values, reaches its peak on the hottest days of the year. However, any day with a temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit, even on warm spring and autumn days, affects the CDD value. The sum of the daily CDD values ​​accumulated over a calendar year gives us the annual CDD value for a particular location.

Our media partners at Climate Central conducted a comprehensive analysis of historical temperature data from 1970 to 2022 at 240 locations in the United States. The study found that since 1970, 232 out of 240 locations (97%) experienced an increase in annual CDD.

Check out the growing demands for the US

Demand for refrigeration is on the rise

The regions that experienced the most significant growth in annual CDD since 1970 were the Southwest, South, and Southeast. These areas allocate a significantly higher share of their energy budget to air conditioning (up to 27% in Gulf Coast states) compared to the national average of 12%.

This graph shows the increase in demand in Orlando since 1970.

Orlando’s need for cooling

Gainesville is in a similar situation.

Cooling Need Gainesville

States such as Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Florida have experienced the largest increases in CDD since 1970. Likewise in certain locations including Las Vegas, Nevada; McAllen, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Reno, Nevada; El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and Albany, Georgia experienced the biggest spike in CDDs.

Given the ongoing global warming, rising demand for refrigeration is a trend that is expected to continue. According to the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts, projections show that U.S. household cooling demand will grow by 71% by 2050. The cooling demand of commercial buildings is expected to increase by 30% over the same period.

It is important to note that these forecasts may be underestimated as they only take into account air temperature (CDD) and do not take into account additional cooling demand due to humidity.

In addition, this growing demand for refrigeration is not unique to the US, where 90% of households already have air conditioners. Global cooling demand is projected to more than triple by 2050, consuming the same amount of electricity as China and India use today combined. This increased demand is due to rising temperatures and increased access to air conditioning in countries around the world.

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