The central contradiction of climate change is that it is at the same time the most epic problem our species has ever encountered but is largely invisible to the average person. From the comfort of your home, you may not realize how climate change is already affecting mental health or tearing different ecosystems, or how cities such as Los Angeles take drastic measures to prepare for water scarcity.
Therefore, the challenge for scientists is to raise the concern about something that is difficult to grasp. But a new interactive map is perhaps one of the best visualizations about how climate change will transform America. Click on your city and the map will identify a modern analogue city that responds to what your climate may be like in 2080. New York will feel more like today's Jonesboro, Arkansas; the Bay Area is similar to LA; and LA rather like the summit of Baha California. If this does not put the severe threat of climate change in perspective for you, I'm not sure what will happen.
The data behind it is nothing new but public repackaging from these data, known as climate-analogue mapping, is a change in the way science is reaching the public. "The idea is to translate global projections into something less remote, less abstract, which is more psychologically local and appropriate," said University of Maryland ecologist Matt Fitzpatrick, lead author of a new document in Nature Communications description of the system.
Fitzpatrick examined 540 urban areas in North America using three main data sets. One covers the current climatic conditions (averages between 1960 and 1990), the second contains forecasts for the future climate, and the third provides historical climate variability from year to year, taken from NOAA weather data. (Depending on the city, the climate may be more stable, or it may grow wilder between the years.) Researchers consider temperature and rainfall in particular, although, of course, these are not the only two variables in climate modeling – More for that after a while.
If you click on the interactive map, you will notice some trends in a scenario where emissions continue to grow for 60 years. "Many East Coast cities will become places in the southwest, about 500 miles on average," says Fitzpatrick. In the West Bank, cities look like places to the south of them. Portland, for example, in 2080 will feel more like the Central Valley in California, which is usually warmer and drier. Also, the map has an option (on the left side) that uses a different calculation to show how the changes will look if the emissions peak at about 2040 and begin to fall.
The consequences are shocking, but also potentially useful. "Shaping results in a meaningful way for the public sector, informing policy and the scientific community is known to be difficult," said Kevin Burke of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the study. "One remarkable result of this work is the potential of cities and their analogue pairs to transfer knowledge and coordinate climate adaptation strategies."
Take strong heat, for example. This is the norm in a place like Phoenix, a city loaded with air conditioners. But in places like San Francisco, air conditioning is rare. If San Francisco really completed a climate like Los Angeles for 60 years, it would be a major public health problem. Final heat easily kills as in the deadly heat waves of Europe in 2017.
Another important consideration is water. Many urban areas will get drier, but others may see that their total rainfall remains unchanged. However, rainfall patterns may change, for example, throughout the winter. "So, even though it gets the same amount, it could have very big consequences for places that are not used to long summer drought or what you have," says Fitzpatrick.
San Francisco can learn some water management techniques from its analogue from 2080. Climate patterns predict that in the coming decades Los Angeles will see fewer but more intense rains. To prepare, the city has launched an ambitious program to capture those huge water basins with a network of tankers embedded in road environments. The rain capture program reduces its dependence on water that is fed to the city from afar.
The bay area, which in the past has been blessed with more rainwater than its neighbor in the south, has not been so advanced. Rich communities have been sighing when new water requirements mean that their lawns will …exhalation– brown. "Los Angeles is a long way from the bay area in terms of introducing incentives to move away from the more intense open-air landscaping we still have even in the progressive bay area," says Michael Kipparski, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the University of California in Berkeley, who was not involved in this new job.
Changes in precipitation would have serious consequences for agriculture, of course. But something more subtle: a change in the climate will create the local ecosystem. For example, pests like mosquitoes could thrive in your community. Some plant species may not be able to cope with sudden change and disappear.
"People can adapt to some extent and move, but animals and ecosystems will not be able to be realized in this short period of time," said the climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Rétou Knuty, who was not involved in the study. "That's why we're conducting a risky experiment with the Earth, with some unknown effects."
"This is really my biggest concern," says Fitzpatrick. "Direct climate change is not necessarily the indirect impact on natural and agricultural systems, given the magnitude and speed of these changes."
Even worse, some of the North American cities that are exploring Fitzpatrick will not have a modern equivalent in 2080. This means you can not compare them with the climate we see today. This makes the threat response even more difficult – The bay area may expect to feel more like Los Angeles for 60 years and adapt accordingly, but if you do not have a good idea of what's coming, it's hard to cushion against the threat.
To be clear, however, this analogue air-conditioning technique simplifies things-for example, researchers have abandoned complicating factors such as the effect of the city's thermal island, where cities take more heat than surrounding rural areas. And that's it average climate, not time. For example, the recent cooling of the East Coast was caused by the higher temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.
"None of these analogs are captured," says Andrew Jarvis, a scientist at CGIAR, the Agricultural Research Institute. "So from the point of view of communication, this is one of the dangers of it. This is too simplistic. "And so: Climate systems are complex monumental, though less scientists are better able to learn how our planet will be transformed during climate change. Only the card can not pass on all this knowledge.
Still, the idea with this new interactive map is to better visualize – for both ordinary citizens and politicians – what was previously presented as impenetrable datasets. "I hope more than anything is an open eye and start more of these discussions so that more planning can be done," says Fitzpatrick.
Climate change is here and is already causing chaos. Think about this road map to help you navigate into chaos.
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