Hot enough for you? Just wait several decades, when summer will really sizzle.
A new report spells out what rising temperatures will feel like by century’s end in 1,001 U.S. cities if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The analysis, 1,001 Sizzling Future Summers, was produced by Climate Central, an independent, nonpartisan group of scientists and journalists whose mission is to inform Americans about the impact that climate change is having—and will have—on their lives.
The analysis includes an interactive map that allows readers to learn how hot their city will become by 2100, and to see which U.S. city is experiencing those temperatures today.
“If it feels hot to you now in the dog days of this summer, imagine a time when summertime Boston starts feeling like Miami and even Montana sizzles,” the report warns. “Thanks to climate change, that day is coming by the end of the century, making it harder to avoid simmering temperatures...if current emissions trends continue unabated.”
If current warming trends hold, Boston will gain 10 degrees in average summer temperatures, making the New England city as sultry as Miami Beach is today. Way up in Helena, Mont., summers will be 12 degrees warmer, the same weather currently experienced in toasty Riverside, Calif.
“By the end of this century, summers in most of the 1,001 cities we analyzed will feel like summers now in Texas and Florida (in temperatures only, not humidity),” the report says.
Most cities in Texas will feel like sun-scorched Phoenix and Gilbert, Ariz., among the nation’s hottest cities today. Phoenix, in turn, will experience temperatures comparable to those of Kuwait City.
On average, summertime temperatures will increase by seven to 10 degrees in most U.S. cities, while some locations will heat up by 12 degrees, the analysis says.
Alyson Kenward, principal investigator on the study, said similar reports have been prepared at the state level, but this is the first time people around the country can see just how hot their own city will become.
“We realized that pointing out places that are already that hot would really help people understand just how much different things will feel for them, their children and grandchildren over the next several decades,” Kenward said in an email.
Perhaps more depressing is that even if aggressive emissions reductions are achieved, U.S. cities are already likely locked into hotter summers, she said. “However, that level of warming is much smaller than if emissions trends continue unabated,” she added.
Worse, heat begets heat. Rising temperatures mean heavier reliance on air conditioners, which not only require more energy but also boost temperatures on their own. A recent study from Phoenix found that air conditioners contribute a measurable amount of extra heat at night.
The implications are enormous, especially for human health, wildlife, and local flora. Tropical diseases will likely move northward with rising temperatures, and already dangerous ozone levels on hot days will become even more hazardous.
As for native species, the National Wildlife Federation warns that rising temperatures are already making life difficult.
The American pika, for instance, a small mammal living on alpine slopes in the West, is moving to higher elevations for cooler air. “As global warming increases average temperatures, the pika may soon run out of places to go,” the NWF says on its website.
Waterfowl are also paying the price as increased heat alters behaviors and migration patterns and causes both floods and drought—which threatens to desiccate 90 percent of the country’s wetlands. Rising river and lake temperatures, meanwhile, reduce populations of salmon, trout, and other cold-water fish.
“Unless significant action is taken now,” the NWF warns, “global warming will likely become the single most important factor to affect wildlife since the emergence of mankind.”
So will crocodiles prowl the palm-lined shores of Boston Harbor one day? Probably not in your lifetime. But as the saying goes, “What about the children?”