The facts are undeniable: climate change will continue to affect the entire planet in notable and sometimes catastrophic ways. Not all regions will be equally impacted, yet from wildfires to hurricanes, citizens, plants and animals will be touched by the consequences.
The most recent report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program outlines the likely impacts of climate change for each region in the U.S. It’s a comprehensive analysis of how the environment will respond to existing scars like water shortages, soil erosion, deforestation and increased heat. What that looks like in one part of the country is predicted to vary wildly from other areas. What will climate change look like in your backyard? Here’s a breakdown.
It’s a region well known for copious amounts of rain. From Seattle to Portland, memes abound about the rainy lifestyle. However, rain is only part of the equation. Snow in the mountain ranges are crucial to providing adequate water during the warmer, dryer summer months. While the forecast is for rainy days to continue, the report states the area can predict much lower snowpack amounts. That’s bad for salmon runs, tourism, recreation, wildlife and residents. However, it’s also going to contribute to already devastating wildfires and struggles for the dense population of farmers in the region.
The landscape spreads across California through Nevada and over to Arizona, changing from elevations at sea level up through the mountains and back down to desert land. The needs are varied, but one thing is consistent: the reliance on water.
This hot and dry corner of the country already struggles with water shortages and without some seriously innovative solutions, it’s going to reach tragic levels sooner than later.
The prediction is for record-breaking temperatures, longer hot seasons and shorter cool ones, low snow-pack and less rain. The result will be catastrophic for wildlife and citizens, particularly those in low-income areas. Continued wildfires, drought and significant impacts to food production are all on the horizon.
It’s so huge, it makes up its own region. Surrounded by water across vast coastlines, it’s no surprise water is part of the landscape, both literally and culturally. Industry and lifestyle are closely connected to this crucial resource, from the fishing industry to village life the way it’s been handed down for generations.
Climate change, however, will have a huge impact on these quintessential Alaskan experiences. That’s because acidification is expected to change the properties of the ocean. That kind of habitat change will have detrimental effects on shellfish, salmon, coral and other sea life.
In addition to the effects on marine animals and the resulting economic and cultural impacts, climate change is expected to make the temperature warmer year round, reduce snow, create ideal conditions for wildfires and continue to melt away the permafrost then entire region is literally built on.
Southern Great Plains
Vast open regions of land lack protection from wind and violent storms. This assessment reports that it will continue to be the case, with an increase in natural disasters and weather events like heat waves, tornadoes, drought and hurricanes.
Long, hot summers will contribute to drought and challenge agriculture. Down in the Texas gulf region, disease-toting insects, hurricanes, water shortages and power outages will plague the area.
Northern Great Plains
In short, the forecast calls for water woes here too. That’s not good, considering the vast amount of agriculture and energy production. Warmer temps means less snow to melt and service the needs of plants, animals, industry and humans. As a reminder of how each system is interrelated, a single species of mountain pine beetle is already credited with clearing huge areas of the forest due to weakened ecology from less snow and rain.
Soybeans and corn aren’t the only food production at risk, but the impact will be notable. Hot temperatures and less moisture will put farmers and others in the agriculture industry at risk. Wilting plants will cause food shortages and workers will suffer in the heat. The most dire forecast has areas of Illinois looking like the hottest areas of the southwest today within the next 75 years.
Another big problem in the Midwest is protecting the Great Lakes, which provides a high-percentage of the freshwater on the planet. However, industrial and farming pollution is contributing to toxic algae growth and decrease in water quality.
Even the coastal, well-treed, nature-loving region of the country will not go unscathed, according to the report. In fact, the northern corner is expected to experience the quickest temperature increase in the country. That’s expected to cause sea-level rise, flooding, shortened winters and ocean warming. It will impact industry and animal habitats, including the predicted nearly complete loss of dragonflies.
The already sunny and hot region will have much more of both by the end of the century. That can elevate uncomfortable to unbearable. Not only will hot days turn into overly muggy nights with little reprieve, but the region could see over three months of additional extreme-heat days annually. This situation will exacerbate the effects of poverty in the area, affect worker productivity and drive up energy requirements.
The effects of climate change won’t stop at the contiguous borders of the country. In fact, the Hawaiian Islands can expect rising sea levels, changing and perhaps unpredictable rainfall patterns that lead to drought, flooding and extreme temperatures to balance it all out in the most unhelpful ways.
Hawaiians should prepare for water shortages in some regions and problems like flooding and erosion in others. Animals and plants will also feel the effects, caused by everything from warming waters to soil degradation, to water and energy production.
The one thing every region has in common is increasing temperatures, so in addition to the extinction of countless species, humans may no longer need that soon-to-be relic parka. Then again, perhaps we’ll finally invest in desalination and high-efficiency solar panels.