Scientists have mapped the changes in climate that cities across North America will experience by 2080 if global warming isn't stopped, with the residents of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia on course to see conditions currently found hundreds of kilometers to the south.
If current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are pumped into the Earth's atmosphere for the rest of the 21st century, today's children will live in climates not only unlike anything their parents or grandparents have experienced, but not seen for millennia, the scientists who created the map warned.
But figures such as a 3C rise in global temperatures, which scientists believe would be catastrophic to the survival of life on Earth as we know it, can feel abstract to the average person, argued the creators of the map presented in the journal Nature Communications. The team wanted to make the impending threat easier to digest, by mapping how the conditions in 540 urban areas—home to around 250 million people across the U.S. and Canada—would be comparable to a potentially familiar location.
In North America, urban areas will have to become accustomed to the current climate of regions some 850 kilometers away on average, the scientists said. And thanks to their hulking populations, relatively old infrastructure, and a lack of coordinated effort to stem the effects of climate change, cities are particularly prone to the negative effects of changes in climate. Most major cities don't have contingency plans in place for impending environmental disasters, and the subsequent social and economic fallout, they warned.
The subtropical humidity of the midwest and south-eastern U.S., for instance, will creep up into the northeastern cities. In contrast, cities to the west will in time more closely resemble the deserts of the Southwest or southern California.
To create their map, the researchers used a statistical technique called climate-analog mapping to prove comparisons between the modern day and future climates of urban areas. They drew on the mean climate data documented between 1960 to 1990 and average projections for 2070 to 2099.
However, the scientists acknowledged the map left out important outcomes such as the rise of sea levels, health issues, and the risk of extreme weather events. For instance, the new normal could see species pop up in the northeast that are usually seen in the southeast, like Asian Tiger mosquitoes and with it the West Nile Virus.
Still, the team said they hoped their map will provide an "intuitive" way for members of the public to grasp the dangers posed by climate change.
Study author Dr. Matt Fitzpatrick and associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science told Newsweek: "Our results show just how dramatic a transformation climate is expected to undergo over the next several decades. These changes are already underway.
"If emissions continue at the same rates, many urban areas will eventually experience climates unlike any found at present in the western hemisphere North of the equator. Our results clearly show the effect that reducing emissions could have on the magnitude of future climate change."
He contined: "Everyone should be concerned, but especially those living in places that are particularly dependent on the current climate regime to provide adequate water and where coastal flooding will become a substantial threat."
The paper is the latest warning from scientists of the impending threat. Last year, a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change warned that if the pledges of the Paris climate agreement are not met, more than a quarter of the Earth will suffer droughts and desertification by 2050. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in June 2018.