13 Feb

Map of the Week: Changing Climates in North America

The climate of many North American cities is in danger of changing dramatically by 2080.

Under current high emissions the average urban dweller is going to have to drive more than 500 miles to the south to find a climate similar to their home city by 2080.

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly undeniable, and new research suggests that the imminent changes will affect us closer than we might have once thought. According to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science,, “In one generation, the climate experienced in many North American cities is projected to change to that of locations hundreds of miles away – or to a new climate unlike any found in North America today.” (Science) On average, each of these cities will be faced with a climate that is equivalent to one that is approximately 500 miles away from where they are currently situated. This harsh reality is that these impacts will affect a large portion of the population in the United States and Canada.

The map shows projections which are calculated by taking the expected future climate in each city and matching that with the current climate of another location. These future climate projections are calculated on two basis: emissions are left unchanged with no new regulations, and emissions are curbed with new laws and regulations such as the Paris Agreement. Regardless of either scenario, the climate is still changing. Together, scientists analyzed 540 urban areas that encompassed approx. 250 million inhabitants in the U.S. and Canada. Then, “for each urban area, they mapped the similarity between the city’s future climate expected by the 2080’s and contemporary climate in the western hemisphere north of the equator.” (Science) The metrics that were used include 12 measures of climate, such as the minimum and maximum temperature of a location, as well as the temperature and precipitation during the study period.

The University of Maryland study found that, “If emissions continue unabated throughout the 21st century, the climate of North American urban areas will become, on average, most like the contemporary climate of locations about 500 miles away and mainly to the south. In the eastern U.S., nearly all urban areas, including Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, will become most similar to contemporary climates to the south and southwest. Climates of most urban areas in central and western U.S. will become most similar to contemporary climates found to the south or southeast.” Essentially the climates of the Northeast will start to feel increasingly more like the humid subtropical climates of the South. For example, if no climate action is taken to curb emissions, Washington D.C. will end up feeling more like Northern Mississippi by 2080. This is a startling statistic, and should not be taken lightly.

The purpose of a map such as this is to shock people into realizing that climate change is happening fast and near, and the realities that come with it are approaching. As the author of the study, Matt Fitzpatrick, says, “It’s my hope that people have that ‘wow’ moment, and it sinks in for the first time the scale of the changes we’re expecting in a single generation.” (Science) Based on these findings, one cannot help but be concerned by the imminent impacts of climate change on our society. Someday within many of our lifetime’s, there will be significant differences between the climate of today and the climate of then.


Written by: Sean Halpin