These extreme weather events as well as changes in temperature and water availability – all related to our changing climate – are disrupting the ways we generate, distribute, and consume energy, according to a new report released by the US Department of Energy.
Climate Scenarios Project Temperature and Precipitation in the U.S. through 2100
Curious to ‘see’ how different greenhouse gas emission scenarios are expected to impact the United States? Two recently released animated NASA visualizations developed to support the forthcoming third US National Climate Assessment show projections of Earth’s temperature and precipitation patterns from today through the year 2100—revealing how “low” versus “high” emission scenarios would impact the planet’s climate.
“These visualizations communicate a picture of the impacts of climate change in a way that words do not,” said Allison Leidner, Ph.D., a scientist who coordinates NASA’s involvement in the National Climate Assessment. “When I look at the scenarios for future temperature and precipitation, I really see how dramatically our Nation’s climate could change.”
To develop these complex animations, a team of scientists used results from 15 global climate models, combined with data on monthly temperature and precipitation in the United States, to generate maps of projected conditions through the year 2100.
The visualizations present projections of temperature and precipitation changes from 2000 to 2100 - compared to the historical average from 1970-1999 - under two different scenarios of future CO2 emissions. The “higher emissions” scenario represents a fossil-fuel-intensive future in which concentrations of atmospheric CO2 exceed 800 ppm by the year 2100. The “lower emissions” scenario represents a less fossil-fuel-intensive future in which atmospheric CO2 concentrations level off at around 550 ppm by 2100.
Today, atmospheric CO2 concentrations stand at around 400 ppm.
Temperature in the U.S.
While NASA’s visualizations show significant warming in both scenarios, the projected average temperature change over the contiguous United States in the higher emissions scenario is nearly twice what is projected in the lower emissions scenario— at 8°F (versus just 4.5°F).
Dr. Kenneth E. Kunkel, Lead Scientist for Assessments at NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, explained, “Looking at these visualizations, you see that reducing emissions does in fact have a big impact on the amount of warming by the end of the century.”
Another notable characteristic of the visualizations is that projected warming is generally greater over the North American continent, compared to the surrounding oceans. It takes longer for the oceans to warm up because the excess energy that is deposited in the oceans can be mixed over a fairly large depth, says Dr. Kunkel.
Dr. Kunkel also points out that the magnitude of temperature increase during the summer is much higher over the contiguous U.S. than in Canada and Alaska. This may be partially a result of decreasing soil moisture relating to increased evaporation, which increases as temperature rises.
How Will Precipitation Change?
Nationwide, changes in precipitation are expected to occur under both scenarios, but be more dramatic in the higher emissions scenario—with many dry areas getting dryer, while wet areas get wetter.
“The visualizations really bring home how regional variations tie back together,” Dr. Leidner said. “Words describe this, but when you see it, you get it.”
For instance, the visualizations show that New England precipitation projected to increase, while some areas of the Southwest can expect to see a 10% decrease in annual precipitation in the higher emission scenario.
To view the detailed visualizations on the NASA website, please visit the links below:
While at USGCRP, the interns have the opportunity to expand their experience and skills as well as gain a larger perspective on the science and politics of climate change at the national level. If you are interested in interning at USGCRP, please visit our Programmatic News Feed or our Facebook page to view our most recent job postings.
USGCRP interns (left to right):
Justin Goldstein, GCIS (U of Oklahoma, PhD Geography 2013)
Mark Shimamoto, MATCH (Climate Change and Human Health, George Washington U. MPH Environmental Health Science and Policy 2014)
Eric Goldman, Indicators (U of Maryland, BA Economics and BS Environmental Science and Policy 2015)
Tess Carter, NCA (Brown, BS Chemistry 2016)
Ella Clarke, Indicators (U of Maryland, BS Environmental Economics, BA Spanish Language 2014)
Tara Failey, Communications/Education (George Washington, MPH Environmental Health Science and Policy,
Jordan McCammon, Indicators (Penn State, BS Meteorology 2016)
Marques Gilliam, Indicators (U of Maryland, BA Environmental Science and Policy 2015)
Christian McGillen, Indicators (Virginia Tech, BS Meteorology 2015)
Krista Mantsch, NCA (Indiana U, MPA Environmental Policy 2014)
Ryan Clark, Indicators (U.S. Coast Guard/U of Maryland, MS Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 2014)
Sarah Anderson, Indicators (Washington State, Environmental Science PhD 2015)
Not pictured:Samantha Brooks, SGCR (American University, MA Global Environmental Policy 2013)
Not pictured:Julie Maldonado, NCA (American University, PhD Candidate Public Anthropology)
On Tuesday, June 25, in a speech at Georgetown University, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan for steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address climate change as a global challenge.
To address future risk of coastal flooding, federal agencies have jointly developed a sea level rise planning tool - which includes interactive sea level rise (SLR) maps and a SLR calculator. The tool provides information on how parts of New York and New Jersey impacted by Sandy may be impacted by coastal flooding in the future.