Providence’s climate in 2080 is projected to feel most like today’s climate in Cambridge, Md.
By ROGER WARBURTON/ecoRI News contributor
Over the next few decades, the global climate is expected to undergo a dramatic transformation because of long-accumulating greenhouse-gas emissions. What do we expect Providence to feel like by 2080?
A major challenge in the discussion of climate change lies in presenting the impacts in easily understandable form. For example, it’s hard to understand the effects of the abstract notion of a 2-degree global temperature rise. A second challenge is that many national stories don’t show the impact in Rhode Island.
A new tool, called Climate-Analog Mapping, helps to address both of those concerns.
In the figure above, the climate analog map was generated for Providence, where, by 2080, it’s projected that the climate of Rhode Island’s capital will feel most like Cambridge, Md., 395 miles to the south.
The typical summer in Cambridge, the fourth-most populous city in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region, is 6.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and 16.1 percent wetter than summer in Providence. The larger the size of the purple circle in the above figure, the poorer the match that location is to the current Providence climate.
Translating abstract projections, such as a 2-degree temperature rise, into concrete personal experiences may help overcome some barriers to public appreciation of the seriousness of climate change. Since most humans live in urban areas, and urban populations are highly sensitive to climate change, climate analog mapping helps to explain the implications of climate change for 250 million urban residents.
This second figure uses climate-analog mapping to identify the location that has a contemporary climate most similar to each urban area’s expected climate around 2080. Most urban climates will be akin to contemporary climates hundreds of miles away and mainly to the south.
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia will become most similar to contemporary climates more like the humid subtropical climates typical of the Midwest or the southeastern United States.
The central and western United States will become most similar to contemporary climates found to the south or southeast.
Western cities are expected to become more like those of the desert Southwest or Southern California; warmer in all seasons.
Calculating the climate analog uses 12 different measures to describe climate (temperatures and precipitation for all seasons), multiple emission models, and 27 different climate forecasts.
Roger Warburton, Ph.D., is a Newport, R.I., resident.
Editor’s note: To read the scientific details of the mapping tool, click here.