Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In the News: Another Unsettling Climate Change Map

The Orange States of America.  This is the picture in an unsettling interactive map recently released by the US Geological Survey (click here to view the map on the Washington Post website), in what has become the next round of depressing climate change projections.  Pulling data from more than a dozen climate models, the map depicts expected temperature and precipitation changes for the continental US for the years 2050-2074.  And the picture is not a pretty one... things are going to get significantly warmer.

Screenshot of the USGS Map.  Source: http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2013/12/16/this-terrifying-map-shows-how-much-hotter-america-will-be-in-a-half-century/

Nationwide, annual mean temperatures are projected to increase anywhere from 2.4 to 4 degrees Celsius, which correlates to approximately 6 to7 degrees Fahrenheit. Can you imagine adding another 6 or 7 degrees to the already-sweltering summertime heat experienced in some areas of the US?  This will lead to unbearable and dangerously hot weather.  And how about increasing wintertime temps by the same 6 to 7 degrees?  At first, many of us likely wouldn't complain about milder winter weather, but we might think twice after taking into consideration the fact that our summertime water supply (i.e., snowpack in the mountains) would be jeopardized with the projected temperature increases, as well as the pest problems that could arise with the disappearance of that annual "killing frost".  Mild winters and dangerously hot summers with a severely diminished water supply... that doesn't sound like an ideal situation.

Screenshot of the USGS Map.  Source: http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2013/12/16/this-terrifying-map-shows-how-much-hotter-america-will-be-in-a-half-century/
By clicking on the "Variable" tab above the map, you can change the projections to show precipitation across the US.  The pale blue color across much of the map indicates that precipitation is expected to stay about the same or increase marginally, while the beige tones across the south/southwest indicate that precipitation in those regions will remain the same or decrease slightly.

And of course, when I saw this map I had to ask... what about Washington?  The mean model predicts that temperatures in our state will increase by 3.3 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 6 degrees Fahrenheit.  This could push our summertime temperatures into the 90's and 100's, and our wintertime temperatures could be in the balmy 40's and 50's. Precipitation is projected to increase slightly (1mm per day), so our corner of the country certainly won't be losing its reputation for being notoriously gray and rainy.

We're clearly going to be living in a much different country in the latter half of this century.  The increased temperatures will have far-reaching adverse effects on water supplies, agriculture and food supply, human health, ecosystem functions and biodiversity.  In order to mitigate the worst of these effects, our country needs to start planning now for this challenging future, and take immediate steps to curb our greenhouse gas emissions which fuel the climate change that has turned the United States orange. The US Geological Survey map is yet another clarion call for immediate action to address climate change. 

The Washington State Department of Ecology and the Department of Natural Resources prepared an Integrated Climate Response Strategy, released in April 2012.  This report covers human health, ecosystems, oceans, water resources, agriculture, forests, and infrastructure, among other topics, and details the expected effects of climate change and suggested strategies to mitigate those effects. Our state is one of the few that has prepared such climate change strategies - time for the rest of our country to get on board... we're all facing a warmer future!

For more information on how you can take steps to decrease your personal carbon footprint and combat climate change, visit the "Going Green" page on this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment