The climate crisis is here to stay and it is being said that 16 US cities are at risk of having summer temperatures on a par with locations in the Middle East by the end of the century.
Hundreds of heat records have tumbled, from Boston, Massachusetts, which hit 100F (37C), to Portland, Oregon, which reached 102F (38.9C) on Tuesday in heatwaves.
An analysis of temperature trends by Climate Central revealed that summer temperatures in 2100 for many cities will be more like conditions farther south, 437 miles to the south on average, with Washington DC having summers more like Austin, Texas‘; Boston becoming more like Philadelphia; and Billings, Montana, resembling El Paso, Texas.
Some US cities could be shifted to the sort of climates now experienced by cities in other countries, such as Los Angeles becoming more like Tuxpan in Mexico. Austin’s summers will feel like present-day Dubai, Phoenix will take after the climate of Saudi Arabia, and Las Vegas getting similar to Kuwait.
“The real risks will be in heatwaves that are no occasional extremes that will start lasting longer,” said Peter Girard, a spokesperson for Climate Central, a research organization made up of climate scientists and science communicators. “These sorts of heatwaves will become normal and the dangers will be far more present. There will be people who have never needed air conditioning who will face this. It can quickly go from uncomfortable to dangerous.”
Researchers collected temperature data from 1990 to 2020 to establish today’s “normal” temperature and looked at 20 different projections of temperatures this century under different climate change scenarios. They decided to compare the status quo to a scenario where planet-heating emissions are not radically reduced and the global average temperature rises by about 3.6C by the end of the century.
“Extreme heat is a silent killer, yet it affects more Americans than any other weather emergency, particularly our nation’s most vulnerable,” said Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser.
Many analysts expect that the temperature rise will be constrained to below 3.6C, due to the rising use of renewable energy, but Girard said even lower levels of warming will cause shifts in the climatic norms of US cities.
“No matter the scenario, this will be a near-term challenge pretty much everywhere,” he said. “Reducing emissions will slow the temperature rise and give governments and cities more time to take steps to keep people safe.”