The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is about to release its fifth major assessment report, and while the prognosis is set to be none too rosy, it’s not really a surprise. The planet is warming, humans are to blame, and we’re in for a world of pain. There’s no doubt about it.
But you might be wondering what any of this has to do with you. You’re living in a specific place somewhere, and all this intergalactic, intergovernmental stuff seems far away–quite abstract, really. What does climate change mean to me, person on the ground?
The answer, for those who are interested, is in some new NASA projections that take climate change to a more fine grained understanding. Instead of the normal hifalutin picture, these images get down to the block-by-block. They show how Monowi, Nebraska, and Baneberry, Tennessee, are going to experience global warming, not whole continents or even countries or states.
Climate projections normally deal in scales of 100 to 250 kilometers. NASA’s new images are of the order of half a mile, or 800 meters. They’re the product of past measurements, geographical readings, and a host of greenhouse gas data, all processed over “hundreds of thousands of supercomputing hours.”
They also may make it easier for resource managers to quantify anticipated climate change impacts on…water supplies and winter snow packs, public health and the spread of insect-borne diseases, flood risk and potential impacts to critical urban infrastructure, wildfire frequency and severity, agricultural production, and wildlife and biodiversity.
The two maps above compare springtime temperatures in the United States in 1950s and the 2090s.
As you can see, most places are warmer, particularly in the South, and states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. It’s a reminder that, while climate change is a global phenomenon, the consequences are local. The real drama isn’t in academic appraisals, it’s in results on the ground.