It’s Winter and It’s Kind of Warm Outside. Again.
Whatever your feelings are about the phrase ‘global warming’, the fact remains that the Earth’s climate is changing, and it’s changing at a rate faster than any seen in recent history. Every person and place on the planet is experiencing warmer temperatures relative to historic trends, and with those temperature changes come floods, droughts, fires, and many other climate-related crises. The magnitude and rate of warming over the last 150 years has far surpassed the previous 24,000 years, according to a team from the University of Arizona, who reconstructed the Earth’s climate back to the last ice age.
Scientists at UCAR Center for Science Education (UCAR SciEd) predict the Earth’s global average temperature will rise an additional 7.2°F (4°C) degrees during the 21st Century. The data provides clear evidence we can expect warmer temperatures for years to come. As for repercussions in the short term, indications can come from current changes and events.
Let’s look at some examples from across the globe and closer to home. You will see where, how, and to what degree warmer temperatures affect the Earth varies. Some places are finding opportunities from the situation, while others are being devastated. Globally, the places on Earth expected to be the hardest hit are the Arctic, Africa, Australia, and islands in Asia.
In the Arctic regions, temperatures rise faster than anywhere else on Earth. Places like the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, which relies on glacial water for drinking and irrigation, see their freshwater sources quickly melting away. Yet, in the Nordic Region, which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, warmer temperatures are creating opportunities. The growing season is significantly getting longer and bringing in higher agriculture yields. The same thing is occurring in Canada and Russia.
Closer to home, cities hardest hit by warmer temperatures are Phoenix, Miami, Louisville, Honolulu, Miami, Barrow, San Diego, and New York. In Phoenix, a town of 4.5 million people, average temperatures increase one degree every decade. Air conditioning has become a life-and-death issue. The growing need for more power, combined with an inability to provide more from dams as a result of the shrinking Colorado River, has become one of the city’s hardest challenges.
Barrow, Alaska, is the farthest north point of land in the United States. Communities have resided there for thousands of years. Their traditions and way of life are passed down from generation to generation. But warmer temperatures are threatening their culture and their livelihood. The floating ice where mammals usually congregate is melting and taking away their ability to hunt and bring home food for their families. Traditional native foods have nearly disappeared from the Northwest Passage, a sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific.
Miami, on the other hand, is experiencing more intense and more frequent hurricanes dropping larger amounts of rainfall. Heavier storms, combined with an aging sewage system, puts critical infrastructure at risk. Rising sea levels threaten to put the famous South Beach neighborhood underwater in a few short decades.
Cities are responding by building climate resiliency into their plans. In Chicago, the city is changing zoning, opening doors of opportunity for more vertical farms. Regardless of the weather, these farms grow more food, including vegetables, using a fraction of the energy and water required by conventional outdoor methods.
In Iowa, damage from floodwaters reached $1.6 billion in 2019, further reinforcing their need for more tools for monitoring and planning for future flooding. They are working on reducing flood risk by leveraging historical data, creating models, revising forecasts, identifying potential problem areas, and developing and implementing adaptation plans.
In comparison, the states of Minnesota and Michigan are benefiting from warmer temperatures. In Northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the climate has become more moderate and boosting tourism. Officials in Duluth, Minnesota, a city on the shores of Lake Superior with about 86,000 residents, created a new slogan of “climate-proof Duluth” that is under consideration.
It is a good reason for Duluth residents to stay there. But in other cities, people are deciding to change where they live; contributing to a trend in relocation called ‘The Great Climate Migration’ by the New York Times. Unprecedented numbers of people from both climate change and the pandemic are moving to other places in the country.
A survey earlier this year by Redfin of U.S. citizens planning to move within the next year indicated natural disasters and extreme temperatures factored into their decision to relocate. It also indicated one in five Americans believe climate change is already negatively impacting home values in their area
Despite the headlines to the contrary, however, the number of people in an area or city is not changing significantly. The migration is moving risk from one individual to another. While one person or family moves out of a coastal region to reduce their risk, another moves in to take advantage of more affordable housing and readily available jobs.
The bottom line is that every place and person in the world is experiencing warmer temperatures. Climate change poses old and new challenges for so many regions, countries, and cities. Just how big of a challenge depends upon the location and level of preparedness. As for the long-term effects, the great debate continues…
What is certain is StormSensor can help you understand your climate risk, as well as help you adapt to climate change. We love talking about our work, so feel free to check us out at www.stormsensor.io and send us a message!