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US cities "will experience climate without modern equivalence"

Published February 13, 2019

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"In the life of children living today, the climate of many regions is expected to change from acquaintances to conditions unlike those who have lived in the same place by their parents, grandparents, or perhaps every generation in millennia, "says Matt Fitzpatrick of the University. Maryland Ecology Center. "Many cities can experience climate without a modern equivalent in North America."

In one generation, the climate experienced in many North American cities is expected to change in hundreds of kilometers or in a new climate different from that found in North America today.

A new study and interactive web application aim to help the public understand how climate change will affect the lives of people living in urban areas of the United States and Canada. These new climate analyzes respond to the expected future climate in any city with the current climate elsewhere, providing a relative picture of what is likely to be preserved.

"With current high emissions, the average city citizen will have to drive more than 500 miles south to find the climate that is expected in his hometown by 2080," said the author of the Fitzpatrick study. "The climate is changing not only, but the climate that currently does not exist in North America will be prevalent in many urban areas."

The study found that by the 2080s, even if emissions restrictions were placed, the climate of North American urban areas would feel significantly different and in many cases totally different from the modern climate that is found everywhere in the Western Hemisphere north of the equator.

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If emissions continue in the 21st century, the climate of North America's urban areas will average on average as the modern climate in locations around 500 miles and mostly in the south. In the eastern US, almost all urban areas, including Boston, New York and Philadelphia, will be closest to the modern climate in the south and southwest. The climate of most urban areas in the central and western parts of the United States will become closest to the modern climate found south or southeast.

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The climate of northeast cities will feel more like the humid subtropical climate typical of parts of the Midwest or the Southeast US today – warmer and wetter in all seasons. For example, if we do not take action to mitigate emissions, Washington will feel more like a northern Mississippi. The climate of western cities is expected to look more like those in the Southwest or Southern California desert – warmer during all seasons, with variations in the quantity and seasonal distribution of rainfall. The climate in San Francisco will look like the climate in Los Angeles. New York will feel more like North Arkansas.

Scientists have analyzed 540 urban areas, covering about 250 million inhabitants in the United States and Canada. For each urban area, they identified the similarity between the future climate of this city expected in 2080 and the modern climate in the western hemisphere north of the equator, using 12 climate measures, including minimum and maximum temperatures and rainfall over the four seasons.

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The study also outlined the climate change in two emission pathways: non-reducing emissions (RCP8.5), the scenario that most closely matches what can be expected given current policies and the speed of global action and reduced emissions (RCP4.5), which implies emission reduction policies such as the Paris Agreement.

Climate-analogue mapping is a statistical technique that matches the expected future climate in one place – your city of residence, for example – with the current climate in another familiar place to provide a ground-based understanding of climate change. Combining climate mapping with the interactive web application provides a powerful tool for informing how climate change can affect the lives of much of the US and Canadian population.

"We can use this technique to turn a future forecast into something that we can better conceptualize and connect with our own experience," says Fitzpatrick. "I hope people will have this" wow "moment and it sinks for the first time in the scale of the changes we expect in one generation."

See an interactive map of your location

The Daily Galaxy through the Center for Ecological Sciences at the University of Maryland

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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