Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Over the next three decades, members of the United States military stationed on bases in the contiguous U.S. could experience an extra month of extreme heat each year, as climate change continues unabated.
Researchers with the Union of Concerned Scientists used climate models to simulate temperatures on U.S. military bases under a range of warming scenarios. They published their findings in a new report.
"Our results show that with no action to reduce global heat-trapping emissions, on average, by mid-century U.S. installations would experience nearly five times as many days with a heat index above 100°F as they have historically," Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist and the lead author of the study, wrote in a blog update. "These results imply that living, working, and training at US military bases is poised to become increasingly risky for service people and their families over the course of the next few decades and in every branch of the armed forces."
Each year, thousands of service people on U.S. military bases experience heat-related illnesses. The problem is actually worse in the U.S. than in the Middle East. Only 67 service people deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced a heat-related illness last year.
During the last decade, 17 members of the military have died during training exercises as a result of heat stroke. The problem is likely to get worse as temperatures continue to rise.
The latest report relied on data and models developed as part of an earlier climate change study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications.
Military bases located in the South, the Plains and throughout the Sun Belt will experience the largest increase in extreme heat. Using the newly compiled data, scientists published an interactive map showing the impacts of climate change on military bases in the lower 48 states.
Without decreases in global carbon emissions, simulations suggest the Homestead Air Reserve Base, in Florida, will experience 102 extreme-heat days per year. The Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans will experience 74 days of dangerous heat.
The new report showed increases in extreme heat will impact bases used by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
"We are looking at a steep increase in the number of dangerously hot days at basic training camps where new recruits, who are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, go through grueling outdoor training," said Shana Udvardy, climate resilience analyst at UCS and co-author of the study. "Many of these bases are located in hot and humid regions of the United States. Last year, drills had to be rescheduled because of dangerous heat conditions. But how do you reschedule around the entire summer in the decades ahead?"
The latest report suggests one of the many impacts of climate could be inadequately prepared troops.