Heading south: Warming to change how US cities feel in 2080
The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Chicago could seem like Kansas City and San Francisco could get a Southern California climate if global warming pollution continues at the current pace, a new study finds.
In 2080, North Carolina's capital, Raleigh, could feel more like Florida's capital, Tallahassee, while the nation's capital will have a climate more akin to just north of the Mississippi Delta, if the globe stays on its current carbon pollution trend. Miami might as well be southern Mexico and the beautiful mornings in future Des Moines, Iowa, could feel like they are straight out of Oklahoma.
That's according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that tries to explain climate change better.
"The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they're going to see a dramatic transformation of climate. It's already under way," said study lead author Matt Fitzpatrick. He's an ecology professor at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Sciences in Frostburg, Maryland, which won't quite measure up to its name with climate more like current day southern Kentucky.
But if the world cuts back on its carbon dioxide emissions, peaking around 2040, then New York's climate can stay closer to home, feeling more like central Maryland, while Chicago's climate could be somewhat like Dayton, Ohio's.
Fitzpatrick looked at 12 different variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to find out what the future might feel like in a way a regular person might understand. He averaged the climate results from 27 different computer models then found the city that most resembles that futuristic scenario.
He put the results on website that allows people to check how their nearest city could feel: http://shiny.al.umces.edu:3838/futCitiesApp/cityApp/
"Wow," said Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini, who wasn't part of the study. "The science here isn't new but a great way to bring impacts to the local scale user."
The 540 cities on average move 528 miles (850 kilometers) to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring. If the world cuts back, the cities move on average 319 miles (514 kilometers).
The city that moves the most is Wasilla, Alaska, which if emissions aren't cut back could feel like eastern Wisconsin, 11 degrees warmer in the summer. It's a change of about 2,720 miles (4,379 kilometers).
"Visualizations that tap into our own lived experiences make a lot of sense," said Oregon State University climate scientist Kathie Dello, who wasn't part of the study and doesn't like what it shows for her region. "Telling people in historically mild Portland that the climate in the late 21st century will be more like the hot Central Valley of California is jarring."