New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States

New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States

The effects of climate change will include new precipitation patterns that will affect agriculture.

The effects of climate change include rising sea levels, increasing storm intensity and changing drought and precipitation patterns. While the first two impacts will wreak havoc on coastal and land-based communities alike, the last impact will shift where in the country we will be able to reliably and productively grow our food.

A new study in PNAS, entitled “Future of the human climate niche,” analyzed exactly how those impacts will be felt across the United States. The authors demonstrate how “for thousands of years, humans have concentrated in a surprisingly narrow subset of Earth’s available climates, characterized by mean annual temperatures around 13 °C (55 °F).” They demonstrated through modeling where these climatic conditions would likely shift and how many population centers would be left vulnerable to increasingly dangerous impacts that will change the face of the country. According to the authors, “Warming temperatures and changing rainfall will drive agriculture and temperate climates northward, while sea level rise will consume coastlines and dangerous levels of humidity will swamp the Mississippi River valley.”

This study, along with other recent research, visualized through a series of maps created by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, demonstrates that the more habitable areas in North America will likely shift northward and large fires will increase across the country. Where people in North America live now will likely significantly shift as we deal with the coming changes. The maps combined climate data from the Rhodium Group (an independent data-analytics firm), wildfire projections modeled by United States Forest Service researchers (and others), and data from the PNAS study.

Perhaps most significantly, climate change will affect where and how precipitation falls, which could “profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States.”

Is it too late to buy a place in Maine?