When climate change is in the news, it's usually because of a scary new temperature record or a mass coral die-off, or because an enormous chunk of Greenland disappeared and nobody noticed. But at the end of the day, the thing that most of us really care about is how we'll be affected. Now, NOAA is making it easier than ever to find out, with a new Climate Explorer app that shows just how screwed (or spared) your little sliver of the country will be.
The first version of Climate Explorer launched in 2014, as part of a package of climate tools for planners interested in identifying vulnerable coastlines and flooding risks. Now, Climate Explorer has undergone a major upgrade, and suddenly, the information is a lot more meaningful to the average citizen. Searching by zip code or city, users can now view historic climate data and future projections for each individual county in the contiguous United States, generate classy, presentation-worthy graphs, and peer into the hotter, drier tomorrow their kids and grandkids will live.
For instance, here are some mean daily temperature projections for my beloved city of Philadelphia (shut it, haters) that extend out to the end of the century. By 2100, average daily high temperatures in Philly could be up to ten degrees hotter than they are today.
Climate Explorer draws on two of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's flagship models to chart our future. One scenario assume humans take "moderate" action to address global warming, consistent with the two degree goal outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. In the second scenario, we keep piling coal in the furnaces like there's no tomorrow. To appreciate just how different those futures look, you can toggle from local data to a map of the entire US, pick a climate variable you're interested in as well as a date and then use the slider tool to compare.
For instance, here are the mean daily maximum temperature projections for July, 2090:
While it's going to be hot as hell in July no matter how you slice it, notice how much warmer those warm days get in places like the Pacific Northwest, when we keep cranking up the carbon in the atmosphere. Switching to mean daily precipitation, we can see that the Pacific Northwest is also projected to become significantly drier by the end of the century. Future Seattleites, it might be time to start thinking about fire insurance.
Of course, there's a lot of nuance to climate change that a tool like this can't capture. But in a world that's still rife with climate misinformation, climate denial, and most often of all climate apathy, a simple illustration of why this stuff matters to you and your community can be a powerful thing.