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fire in Cali

A firefighter walks near a pool as a neighboring home burns in the Napa wine region in California. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

New Tool Projecting How High US Cities' Temperatures Will Rise by 2050 Provokes Calls for Climate Action

"Within the next 30 yrs, our cities will begin grappling with the harsh realities of #climatechange," tweeted Rep. Barbara Lee. "Congress must take this seriously—we must act before it's too late."

Jessica Corbett

A new tool by Vox that allows users to see projections for how high temperatures in cities across the continental United States are expected to rise by 2050 because of the human-made climate crisis has provoked calls for Congress to take the threats seriously and rapidly act to reduce planet-warming emissions.

"Within the next 30 yrs, our cities will begin grappling with the harsh realities of Some already have, with scorching summers, intense wildfires, unprecedented storms, & devastating hurricanes,"

To determine how high temperatures could soar by the summer and winter of 2050, Vox "looked at the average summer high and winter low temperatures in 1,000 cities in the continental U.S., comparing recorded and modeled temperatures from 1986 to 2015 to projections for 2036 to 2065."

In line with increasingly urgert warnings from scientists across the globe, Vox found that in most places, both seasons will be "strikingly warmer in a few decades." In New York City, for example, the average temperature during both seasons is expected to jump by more than 4°F.

2050 Winters and Summers in NYC

"You may be thinking an average increase of a few degrees to your summer and winter weather doesn't seem that bad," Vox noted. "But buried in these averages are extreme weather events—heat waves, severe rainstorms, and droughts—that will be much more damaging and dangerous than the smaller shifts in averages."

One of the key takeaways is that in about three decades, the temperature and precipitation in many Northern cities is expected to resemeble the conditions of Southern cities today. Such shifts could notably impact the daily lives of residents, especially in regions economically dependent on industries such as agriculture or tourism.

"The timing and total rainfall of the rainy season really matter for agriculture," said Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "What matters for city dwellers is the increase in precipitation extremes."

In California, as Vox pointed out, climate models project that "there will be more frequent swings from periods of intense rain to extreme drought, a phenomenon known as weather whiplash," which "will put extra stresses on dams and farmers and is likely to lead to more severe mudslides."

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called such projections "really scary" and connected them to next week's midterm elections. Linking to Vox's interactive report, she tweeted, "In 6 days, let's elect people that will act to ensure our planet is around for future generations."


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