METERMore than a third of the US population is experiencing rapid and above-average rates of temperature rise, with 499 counties already exceeding 1.5°C (2.7°F) of heating, a review of data shows The Guardian’s weather forecasts.
The US as a whole has warmed over the past century due to the release of planet-warming gases from the burning of fossil fuels, and swathes of the western, northeastern, and upper Midwestern US, which they represent more than 124.6 million people, have registered vertiginous increases since then. Federal government temperature records began in 1895.
Although the climate crisis is convulsing the US, it is doing so unevenly. Hot spots of extreme warming have emerged in many of America’s largest cities, and places as diverse as the balmy California coast to formerly frigid northern Minnesota, while other places, particularly in the south, barely have seen their temperatures change.
“The warming is not evenly distributed,” said Brian Brettschneider, an Alaska-based climatologist who compiled the county’s temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “A lot of places have seen dramatic changes, but there are always some below-average places that will think, ‘It didn’t seem that warm to me.’ The impacts differ depending on where you are.”
Ventura County in California has warmed more than any other county in the contiguous United States, according to NOAA data, seeing a 2.6°C (4.75°F) increase in total warming over the period from 1895 to 2021. Meanwhile, counties that include many of America’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston, have seen their average temperatures rise well beyond the national average. , which stands at an increase of about 1 °C (1.8 °F) in pre-industrial times.
Mark Jackson, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Oxnard, Ventura County, said the county’s temperature increase is “a remarkable number, it’s a scary number considering the pace we’re seeing.” Jackson said the county has seen a big increase in heat waves, including a period of over 100°F (37°C) last summer that “really stressed” the local community.
Hugging the California coast northwest of Los Angeles, Ventura County is known for a pleasant Mediterranean climate that is slightly cooled by its proximity to the ocean. But Jackson said recent heat waves have caused warm air to flow from the mountains in the nearby Los Padres National Forest toward the coast, while the ocean itself is being churned up by rising temperatures. “It’s been really remarkable to see how it gets so hot right up to the coast,” he said.
California is on the brink of its most severe drought in 1,200 years, and scientists say this is fueling the heat seen in many parts of the state: Los Angeles has warmed 4.2°F (2.3°C) since 1895 , while Santa Bárbara increased 2.4 °C. C (4.38F): By reducing moisture in soils, which then bake faster.
Higher temperatures are also worsening the state’s wildfire risk. “We lost everything,” said Tyler Suchman, founder of the online marketing firm. tribal core who in 2017 fled with his wife to escape a great forest fire that leveled his home in Ojai, Ventura County. “It was heartbreaking. The winds were blowing like crazy and the hills along the road were on fire, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Just 11 months later, a separate forest fire destroyed the couple’s next home, in Malibu, when their neighbor scooped up water from his hot tub in a desperate attempt to put out the flames. “No one wants us to move alongside them now,” Suchman said. “You can see how the area has changed in the 18 years since we moved to Ojai. It’s a beautiful place, but unfortunately we can’t live there now, the risk is too great.”
Above-average warming hotspots are found across the U.S. Grand County in Utah, a place of vast deserts, cliffs, and plateaus, is the second-fastest warming county in the 48 states, while all counties in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have warmed more than 1.5°C (2.7°F) since 1895 .
However, it is the northernmost latitudes that have experienced the most extreme heat recently, with Alaska counties making up the six fastest-warming places since 1970 (comparable temperature data for Alaska does not go back to the 1920s). ). Alaska’s North Slope, located within the rapidly warming Arctic, has warmed 3.7°C (6.6°F) in the past 50 years.
“There really is climate change happening in Alaska, everyone can see that things are different than they used to be and everyone is worried about what the future is going to look like here,” said Brettschneider, who said even her teenage children have noticed the pushback. of sea ice, a prolonged fire season and a lack of cold days.
The heat is also melting frozen ground, known as permafrost, causing buildings to collapse and roads to buckle. “If you’re driving on the roads near Fairbanks, you better have a strong stomach because it feels like you’re riding a roller coaster,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and a senior scientist at the Nature Conservancy.
Other places that traditionally used to suffer from intense cold have also seen sharp increases in temperature. Roseau and Kittson counties in northern Minnesota are among the five fastest-warming counties in the lower 48 states, with their warming driven by winters that have warmed about 3.8C (7F) in the state since modern records began.
Winters are warming faster than summers because more heat normally escapes from the earth during the colder months, but is now trapped by greenhouse gases. “Some might say ‘well, I like warmer winters,’ but people are noticing negative impacts, like changes to the growing season and the loss of cultural practices like cross-country ski racing,” said Heidi Roop, a climatologist. of the University. of Minnesota “Even small changes in temperature have big consequences.”
Globally, governments set a goal in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to avoid a temperature rise of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial times. Beyond this point, scientists say, the world will face increasing heat waves, storms, floods and social unrest.
While certain areas of the US have already exceeded 1.5C, the important metric is still the global average, Hayhoe said. “In some places a 2°C rise is fine, but 2.5°C is when the wheels fall off the bus, some places are fine with 5 feet of sea level rise due to its elevation, while others they can’t cope with 5 inches because they are short. ,” she said. “Local vulnerability is very personalized. What is relevant for communities is whether or not the world reaches its goals, it is a collective goal for the world.”
That global threshold is in serious jeopardy, with some forecasts warning that 1.5C (2.7F) could be exceeded in a decade without drastic cuts in carbon emissions. Communities will need to prepare for the consequences of this, according to Roop.
“The warming that we’re seeing is pushing the limits of lived human experience, of what we thought was possible,” he said. “We are paying the costs for that and we need to prepare for the changes that are already underway, as well as to prevent further warming.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism