The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Washington, D.C., will have a climate more like just north of the Mississippi Delta if global warming pollution continues at the current pace, a new study finds.
“The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they’re going to see a dramatic transformation of climate. It’s already underway,” said Matt Fitzpatrick, lead author of a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. He’s an ecology professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg.
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 variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to find out what the future might feel like. He averaged the climate results from 27 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: 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 cities on average move 528 miles to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring. If the world cuts back, the cities move 319 miles on average.
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.
“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.”