By 2080, Washington D.C. climate may feel like Deep South

February 12, 2019 by Marlowe Hood
In two generations, or sixty years, the US capital will become as muggy as Memphis or Jackson, Mississippi, if current trends continue unabated, according to a study

In a single generation, climate patterns will shift hundreds of kilometres in the United States, according to a study tracking the northward drift of hotter climes brought on by climate change and global warming.

In two generations, or sixty years, the US capital will become as muggy as Memphis or Jackson, Mississippi, if current trends continue unabated.

For a preview of Tampa, Florida's climate in 2080, think Guatemala, researchers said Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.

Researchers mapped likely changes in 540 US cities—home to 250 million people—over the next 60 years under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.

If planet-warming gases continue to pour into the atmosphere at present rates, they calculated, climates will shift on average 850 kilometres (500 miles) as the crow flies.

Urban dwellers in the United states today, in other words, would have to drive—mostly southward—nearly 1,000 kilometres to get a taste of what their home town will feel like in 2080.

"Within the lifetime of children living today, the climate of many regions is projected to change from the familiar to conditions unlike those experienced in the same place by their parents, grandparents, or perhaps any generation for millennia," said lead author Matthew Fitzpatrick, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

If humanity manages to curb carbon pollution enough to cap at about 3C (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the shift would be less dramatic, but still measured in hundreds of kilometres.

Fitzpatrick authored the report with Robert Dunn of the University of Denmark.

Global warming is already a destructive reality, amplifying droughts, flooding, heat waves and superstorms, especially in poorer countries most vulnerable to its ravages.

But for many people in temperate North America and Europe—sheltered by climate-controlled environments—that reality has yet to sink in, surveys have shown.

Climate reality bites

The 2015 Paris climate treaty aims to hold the rise in global temperature to "well below" 2C, a goal that may be out of reach, say some scientists.

Even under the more hopeful scenario, "climate in North American urban areas will feel substantially different than they do today," Fitzpatrick said.

Broadly speaking, the same holds true for Europe, where some parts of the continent will become hot and drier while others will see far more rainfall and humidity.

In the United States, much of the eastern seaboard from Boston would shift toward subtropical climates, while parts of the west and southwest would become more desert-like.

"Some people might interpret these changes as an upgrade in their city's climate and maybe that is a small positive," Fitzpatrick told AFP.

"However, it comes at the cost of a number of potentially severe secondary effects," he added. "These include increased , , increased cooling demands, coastal flooding, extreme events, arrival of pest organisms, and more disease."

Asian tiger mosquitos and the West Nile virus, for example, have already begun a northward march in both North America and Europe.

Nor did the study take into account additional warming caused by the so-called "urban heat island effect," which can add several degrees to average temperatures, raising the risk of death from heat strokes.

In 2003, there were more than 70,000 deaths across Europe due to a severe heatwave.

Explore further: Climate of North American cities will shift hundreds of miles in one generation

More information: Matthew C. Fitzpatrick et al. Contemporary climatic analogs for 540 North American urban areas in the late 21st century, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08540-3

Related Stories

The human fingerprint on Europe's recent heat

June 30, 2017

This June, Europe experienced some remarkable heat. Temperature records were smashed across the west of the continent with extremely hot days followed by warm uncomfortable nights for many.

Climate change hits poorest hardest, new research shows

May 30, 2018

Australia will still be the lucky country when it comes to changes in local climate as a result of climate change if global average surface temperatures reach the 1.5°C or 2°C limit set by the Paris agreement. 

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 13, 2019
Climate reality bites

The irony in that title is deep. This study, like every single paper projecting climaggedon, isn't actually based on reality. It comes from computer models of global climate. Think of how mind-bogglingly complex a challenge it is to properly characterize global climate. We can't even get weather forecasting very accurate just a week into the future for a small region. Unsurprisingly, the models are wildly inaccurate, but they keep producing apocalyptic scenarios so the doomsaying climate alarmsts keep using them. See for yourself how accurate they are according to the official IPCC report in 2013:


You can see for yourself what actual North American temperatures and trends are here:


And you can see graphs here:

1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2019
What a bizarre cherry pick by aksdad. Looking at CONUS temperatures for only 3 months (NDJ) of each year and or only 15 years so that internal variability can overwhelm climate change. Plot the average annual temperature for 30 years and you see that CONUS temperatures have increased > 1C during that period. So the temperatures are likely to increase > 2C over the period of this study. All of which seems in line with this study.

As far as the models go, it seems equally bizarre to show a plot indicating how well the models are doing (fig. b) and then claim they're bad somehow. To get an update on how those projections have turned out, see the 2nd figure at https://www.clima...vations/ . So actual temperatures are at the high end of the likely range of the projections.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.