Climate change can be hard to fully fathom, especially because those in power continually seem to downplay alarming reports by scientists and our country’s own institutions. In an effort to help make the conversation more personal by offering real-world climate analogies, researchers Matthew C. Fitzpatrick and Robert R. Dunn decided to create an interactive map to help illustrate how the climate will change across 540 urban areas in North America by 2080.
Using something called climate-analog mapping, Fitzpatrick and Dunn’s goal was to develop a tool that would allow the general public, as well as farmers, educators, decision-makers, and city planners to explore how the climate will change. Fitzpatrick and Dunn are hopeful this will help facilitate broader conversation amongst the public.
In a study accompanying the release of the map app, Fitzpatrick and Dunn write, “It is difficult for individuals to detect and conceptualize gradual changes in climate, particularly where natural variability is high and when expected changes in climate are couched solely in numbers.” The pair’s research into climatic analog analyses was able to offer “not so much new models of the future but rather a means to communicate existing models such that their predictions are less abstract and psychologically distant and more local, experiential, and personal.”
That sounds super complicated. The point is, they wanted it to feel easy for dummies like us to savvy out. To do that, the pair of researchers looked at 12 different variables for 540 U.S. and Canadian cities under two different climate change scenarios, which consisted of the four climatological seasons temperature and total precipitation maximum and minimums. The two scenarios show how the climate will be impacted if the current U.S. emissions continue as they are, as well as the less extreme results we’d experience under the emissions guidelines set by the Paris Climate agreement that we just bailed out on, and the difference couldn’t be more shocking.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, we’d still see general warming of our climate across the country, but in way less extreme measures as the climate of most cities shifting southward about 300 miles. Results under current emissions see cities shifting over 500 miles southward on average, with Fitzpatrick and Dunn warning “Many cities could experience climates with no modern equivalent in North America.” Yikes!