When your grandchildren are planning a trip to Denver later in this century, they have to leave the winter hat at home and instead plan to go to Texas Panhandle.
According to a new study published on Tuesday in Nature Communications, which looked at the future climate of 540 cities in North America and made comparisons with cities today. The results show that cities' climate at the end of the century looks more like cities 528 miles south of today if emissions continue to rise in line with current trends. It will reorganize more than holiday plans, as the city's residents will be forced to cope with more intense heat and the dangerous effects that came with it. The study also shows that if we begin to reduce emissions, the cities' climate will still change, but the shift will be considerably less dramatic.
Heat is somewhat visceral and that is partly why the researchers conducted the study. Matthew Fitzpatrick, a researcher at the University of Maryland Environmental Science Center leading the study, told Earther that while he was working on climate data regularly, he really wanted to understand what rising temperatures would mean to him. He began analyzing himself to answer the question of what Washington DC's future climate would look like and then expand the analysis to 539 other cities.
In order to carry out the analysis, he and his co-authors used two simulations of climate models: one where emissions continue to grow on their current trends and another where humanity empties the emissions at the beginning of midcentury. They then took the temperature of the 540 cities under the two scenarios and compared them to today's climate, and found a good fit.
The result shows a massive southern migration of hundreds of miles for almost all cities during both emission scenarios, but especially if emissions continue. The largest movements are distant in the eastern United States and along the Pacific Ocean, as there are minor topographical variations. While Western cities 'climate scientists can sometimes only be found down, where things are warmer, eastern and coastal cities' analogues are often often further away. That's how you end up with Washington, D.C. feel that it is in Mississippi, San Francisco knows that Los Angeles and Los Angeles feel like the peak of Baja California at the end of the century if emissions continue. Or take Anchorage, which will feel like the Powell River, British Columbia is located more than 1
The survey also warns that some cities may end up with a climate without analogue if the emissions continue to increase.
"I like winter sports, so to see that winter / snow would disappear to a great extent as an important part of winter where I live was depressing," Fitzpatrick says.
If carbon dioxide pollution starts to emerge around 2040, the effects will be considerably less dramatic. The urban climate will only migrate an average of 320 miles. Still dramatic to be sure- Washington, D.C. would still feel like Arkansas today – but the changes would require less extensive efforts to adapt. The Climate Center conducted a similar analysis and created an interaction for the United States a few years ago (complete disclosure: I helped with some of it), but based it only on a scenario for emissions of high emissions that was also used in the new study. Fitzpatrick said he started working on this study in 2010 and that the methods differ slightly, especially when it comes to showing what happens if the emissions are cut. It provides a new way of looking at the problem and the choices we face.
This post has been updated to reflect Matthew Fitzpatrick's affiliation with the University of Maryland Environmental Science Center.