The climate is changing. Most people know that it’s changing, and a sizeable majority even say they worry about those changes.But at the same time, just 40% of Americans think it’s going to harm them personally. And just 33% of Americans say they talk about climate change “even occasionally.”
One of the reasons for this discrepancy may be that discussion of climate science tends to happen at the 30,000-foot level — examining global shifts in average temperatures and weather — or focuses on extreme environments, like the Arctic, where the impacts of climate change are most extreme.But climate change is going to impact every corner of the Earth in some way or another.
That’s why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s slick new online Climate Explorer is so fascinating.
The updated system lets you zip across the 48 contiguous states (and Washington DC), and see for yourself how the local climate in any given neighborhood is likely to change between 2010 and 2100. The Climate Explorer also includes data on how the climate has behaved between 1950 and 2010; scroll forward in time, and you’re seeing data pulled from international climate models.
NOAA’s site plots out changes according to two possible futures — one in which global emissions peak in 2040 and then begin to decrease, and another in which emissions keep increasing apace. Take a look.
This image swipes back and forth between the two scenarios in a map of the country in 2090. Darker shades of red indicate more days each year above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
That darkest red, visible around Phoenix, Arizona, as well as parts of southern Texas and Florida in the high-emissions scenario, indicates as many as 225 days over 95 each year.
The chart shows the difference between the two scenarios.
The red area indicates the range of possibilities for the higher-emissions scenario, and the blue area indicates the range for lower emissions. Those lines down the middle indicate the most likely outcomes.
You can see that for Cherry Hill, the difference between high and low emissions amounts to about 50 days with highs over 95 degrees each year by 2090. That’s a lot of dangerously hot weather.
You can see the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest turning brown in both scenarios, signaling they’re likely to get much drier.
But California shows the most dramatic impacts to precipitation. Look at that deep brown in Northern California, where the climate is expected to dry out. Then flick your eye down to deep green Southern California, expected to get a whole lot wetter than it’s been historically.
The darkest blue indicates deep subfreezing temperatures — highs of 20 degrees or lower.
As it gets lighter, we’re in the territory of 32 degrees — highs right around freezing.
Some counties in these scenarios, particularly the high emissions scenario, show average highs above freezing in January. That’s a major shift for the region, with potential impacts on local life, ecosystems, and economies.
(Cook County includes Chicago.)