a little more about . . .
what a few degrees of warming can do
We're talking about the whole planet, so a few degrees averaged over the whole globe over a year's time or longer may not seem like much, but:
- A few globally averaged degrees translate into many more local and regional heat waves, bringing 100-degree days to places not prepared to deal with extreme heat, like Buffalo and Seattle. The warmer atmosphere will also mean heavier rains and snows when it storms, rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities, more severe dry spells where it's dry, and more wildfires.
- A few degrees on a summer day can make Chicago feel like St. Louis and St. Louis feel like Dallas.
- Some areas are warming more than others, as climate scientists predicted. We're seeing dramatic temperature increases in the Arctic, where where year-round sea ice may soon vanish in summer. Hunters who depend on sea mammals for subsistence are now literally on thin ice and the long-term survival of polar bears is in question. Melting permafrost threatens the natural environment, disrupts transportation as roads become impassable, and endangers people as buildings crack and buckle.
- Timing matters, too. Spring arrives a bit earlier than it used to in many places. If all plants and animals adapted to this change at the same pace, it might not be such a problem. But uneven shifts in the seasons are disrupting the balance between predators and their prey. Already, some birds flying north are having a hard time on arrival because the bugs they eat emerged earlier than in the past, leaving less food available for the hungry birds and their offspring.
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The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.