Imagine your city in 60 years from now. Contemplate the new developments, changes to infrastructure, and how robots or AI may affect your job or “smart” home. Next, consider how you’ll dress…for the weather. This is worth serious consideration because, according to new research, the climate in urban areas across North America will feel substantially different than it does today. And yes, this is thanks to climate change.
Life in San Francisco in 2080 may mean residents are in short sleeves and shorts (without sweaters), and shopping for air-conditions. In fact, the Bay Area will feel closer in temperature to that of current-day Los Angeles, while L.A. will feel more like the tip of Baja, California or Las Palmas, Mexico. On the east coast in Washington, D.C., the climate will closely resemble that of today’s northern Mississippi.
If you’re curious about the effect climate change will have on your city in a few decades from now, a couple of U.S. researchers have made it easy to find out. The duo created an interactive online map for a quick idea of how climate change will transform North America (check out the map here). Click on your city, and the map will pinpoint a modern-day city — including 530 in the United States and 10 in Canada — which matches what your city’s climate may feel like in 2080.
In a paper recently published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers Matthew C. Fitzpatrick (University of Maryland) and Robert R Dunn (North Carolina State University) studied 540 urban areas and projected the climate of each of those areas in 60 years from now by using three main datasets.
1. Current climatic conditions (including averages between 1960 and 1990)
2. Future climates historic projections
3. Climate variability from year to year (from NOAA weather records)
According to the researchers: “We identified climatic analogs using ‘sigma dissimilarity22,’ a statistical measure that accounts for correlations between climate variables, incorporates historical inter-annual climatic variability, and converts multi-dimensional climatic distances to percentiles of a probability distribution of these distances.”
The pair then found a city that’s current climate closely aligns with their predictions. “Sigma dissimilarity serves as both an indicator of climate novelty and a measure of the strength of analogy between an urban area’s future climate and its best contemporary climate match.”
Fitzpatrick and Dunn analysis has shown that if emissions continue to rise, North America’s current climate in urban areas will become similar to that of locations about 528 miles (or 850 km) away — and mainly to the south. This means climates in the central and western U.S. regions will become similar to those currently in the south or southeast, while those in the eastern U.S. will become like those to the south and southwest. That’s global warming for you.
The good news? By raising public awareness, the two researchers point out that positive communication and education is possible, which (fingers crossed) may lead to greater efforts to curb emissions. In fact, their interactive map has two emission-levels options users can choose from: “Current high emissions” or “What if we reduce emissions?”
Reducing emissions in your city may lead to plenty of positives including preserved air quality, human health, agriculture, ecosystems, wildlife, rainfall (think water needs), and many others benefits. Of course, one way to combat climate change is to choose wind power, which offers some of the lowest environmental impacts of any source of electricity generation.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind power “significantly reduces carbon emissions, saves billions of gallons of water a year, and cuts pollution that creates smog and triggers asthma attacks.” In fact, AWEA has found that a typical wind project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less, which means it can provide decades of zero-emission energy.
Bottom line: “If we continue on our current trajectory, the climate of many urban areas could become unlike anything present within the study domain, whereas keeping warming within the 1.5 °C goal set by the Paris Agreement could reduce the exposure of urban areas to climate novelty,” states the new study.
Let’s all do our part.