Research Press Release

Climate science: Contemporary climate comparisons for North American cities in 2080

Nature Communications

February 13, 2019

An analysis identifying locations with a current climate that is most similar to the predicted climate of 540 North American urban areas in 2080 is published in Nature Communications. For example, Washington D.C.’s climate in 2080 would be most similar to that of Paragould, Arkansas today if emissions peak around 2040. The study also presents a web application that allows users to explore the results for individual areas.

Matthew Fitzpatrick and Robert Dunn used climate-analog mapping (matching the expected future climate of a location with the current climate somewhere else) to characterize how climate change may impact the lives of approximately 250 million inhabitants in North America in 2080. The authors mapped the climate for 540 urban areas (530 in the United States and 10 in Canada) using two emissions trajectories - emissions continuing to rise throughout the 21st century, or peaking around 2040 before declining.

They found that if emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century, the climate in North American urban areas will become, on average, most like the current climate of locations 850 kilometres away and generally to the south. However, for many urban areas, they found substantial differences between the predicted future climate and the best contemporary climatic analogs. This suggests that by the 2080s many North American cities could experience novel climates with no modern equivalent. The authors hope the findings will provide an intuitive means of raising public awareness about the implications of climate change for urban residents.


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