The Climate of North American Cities is Changing Rapidly

The Climate of North American Cities is Changing Rapidly

The Climate of North American Cities is Changing Rapidly
Image Credits: Big Think

Researchers can now determine the climate changes in 540 North American cities through a new web application.

According to the latest research, the climate of various North American cities changes drastically in near future. Scientists mentioned that either it will shift hundreds of miles or a completely new climate for North American territories will be observed in one generation. They used a newly-developed, interactive web application for their study. Their primary goal was to help people understand the adversity of the situation and aware them about the impact, it could have on the lives of the local residents. They deduced these shocking results by matching the expected future climate in each city with the current climate of another location. Matt Fitzpatrick, an Author of the study from the University of Maryland, explained the scenario in the following words:

“Within the lifetime of children living today, the climate of many regions is projected to change from the familiar to conditions unlike those experienced in the same place by their parents, grandparents, or perhaps any generation in millennia. Many cities could experience climates with no modern equivalent in North America.”

Climate-analog Mapping

A statistical method that matches the expected future climate at one location with the current climate of another region is known as Climate-analog Mapping. Basically, it provides researchers with a thorough understanding of climate change of that place. The researching team combined this climate mapping with an interactive web application to develop a powerful tool that could predict the future climate of numerous North American cities. Fitzpatrick referred to that by saying,

“We can use this technique to translate a future forecast into something we can better conceptualize and link to our own experiences. It’s my hope that people have that ‘wow’ moment, and it sinks in for the first time the scale of the changes we’re expecting in a single generation.”  

Analyses of 540 North American Cities

Researchers analyzed a total of 540 urban areas in the United States and Canada. For each of these cities, they mapped the similarity between the future climate (expected by the 2080s) of that city and contemporary climate in the Western Hemisphere. They considered 12 measures of climate for their study, including precipitation and temperature during the four seasons.

In order to get an accurate estimate, they mapped climate differences under mitigated (RCP4.5) as well as unmitigated emissions (RCP8.5) so that they could get both sides of the picture. Their findings showed that even if limits are placed on emissions, the climate of North American cities will experience significant changes in the coming years. In extreme cases, it will be completely unlike contemporary climates that are found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. On the other hand, if these emissions are allowed to go at the current rate, the climate of most of the North American cities will become like the contemporary climate of locations about 500 miles away towards the South. Fitzpatrick acknowledged that and said,

“Under the business as usual emissions, the average urban dweller is going to have to drive nearly 1,000 km to the south to find a climate like that expected in their home city by 2080. Not only is climate changing, but climates that don’t presently exist in North America will be prevalent in a lot of urban areas.”  

Effects on the Climate of Different Parts of North America

The Northeastern cities of the continent will turn into humid subtropical climates (warmer and wetter) that are typically found in Southeastern parts of the United States, these days. For example, the climate of Washington will start resembling what we get in Northern Mississippi. Likewise, eastern North American cities will become most similar to contemporary climates to the South and Southwest. The cities in the central and western United States will start resembling the climate in the Southeast. Last but not the least, the climates of western cities are expected to become like those of southern California or desert southwest (warmer in all seasons). Fitzpatrick summed up the situation by saying,

“Similar efforts to communicate climate change often focus on temperature only, but climate is more than just temperature. It also includes the amount precipitation an area receives, when it falls during the year, and how much arrives as snow versus rain. Climate change will lead to not only warming but also will alter precipitation patterns.”

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