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If we don’t stop climate change, Boston will feel like Baltimore

Six cities and some possibilities for what their climate will feel like in 2080.
Six cities and some possibilities for what their climate will feel like in 2080.(Matthew Fitzpatrick/Universityof Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

Rosedale, Md. A community just northeast of the city of Baltimore, with some waterfront on the Back River, leading out to the Chesapeake Bay.

Think Bawlmer accents, steamed crab with Old Bay spice — and milder winters, earlier springs, and steamy, downright tropical summers.

If climate change continues, Boston may not get the crustaceans or the accents, but it might get the weather.

That’s according to a recent study in the journal Nature Communications that tries to explain climate change better.

‘‘The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they’re going to see a dramatic transformation of climate. It’s already underway,’’ study lead author Matt Fitzpatrick told the Associated Press. Fitzpatrick is an ecology professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences in Frostburg, Md.

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Fitzpatrick looked at 12 variables for 540 US and Canadian cities under two climate change scenarios to illustrate what the future might be like in a way a layperson might understand. He averaged the climate results from 27 computer models, then found the city that most resembles that future scenario.

“We can use this technique to translate a future forecast into something we can better conceptualize and link to our own experiences,” he said in a statement.

“It’s my hope that people have that ‘wow’ moment, and it sinks in for the first time the scale of the changes we’re expecting in a single generation.”

If Boston is entered into a website he created to showcase his findings, it says that in 2080, if climate change continues apace, the city will resemble Rosedale.

“Boston’s climate in 2080 will feel most like today’s climate near Rosedale, Maryland,” says the website.

“The typical summer in Rosedale, Maryland is 7.3°F (4.1°C) warmer and 17.1% wetter than summer in Boston.”

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The weather will be going south: a screenshot of the website
The weather will be going south: a screenshot of the website

Other findings: New York City could feel like northern Arkansas; Chicago like Kansas City: Raleigh, N.C., like Tallahassee, Fla.; Washington, D.C., like northern Mississippi; San Francisco like Los Angeles; and Miami like southern Mexico.

“We show that [the] climate of most urban areas will shift considerably and become either more akin to contemporary climates hundreds of kilometers away and mainly to the south or will have no modern equivalent” in North America, the study said.

The website also offers a reduced-emissions scenario. Under that one, the website says, Boston in 2080 will feel like a community a little farther north than Rosedale: Aberdeen, Md.

‘‘Wow,’’ Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini, who wasn’t part of the study, said to the Associated Press.

‘‘The science here isn’t new, but [this is] a great way to bring impacts to the local scale user.’’

The 540 cities on average move 528 miles to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions keep soaring.

If the world cuts back, the cities move on average 319 miles.

The study said the idea was to “increase climate change engagement and awareness.”

“It is difficult for individuals to detect and conceptualize gradual changes in climate, particularly where natural variability is high and when expected changes in climate are couched solely in numbers,” the study said.

The idea of such “climatic analog analyses” was to “communicate existing models such that their predictions are less abstract and psychologically distant and more local, experiential, and personal,” the study said.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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