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Study Projects Warming Trends, Rain and Drought for 540 North American Cities in 2080

Average winters in 2080 will be 9.5°C warmer in Montreal, 7.3°C warmer in Quebec City, 6.1°C warmer in Ottawa, and 5.6°C warmer in St. John, New Brunswick than they were in 1990 unless humanity moves quickly to get greenhouse gas emissions under control, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

The research team looked at 540 North American cities and compared their future temperature and precipitation profiles with communities that look that way today. It found that Montreal will look and feel more like Chester, Pennsylvania, Quebec City like Chatham, Ontario, Ottawa like South Shore, Illinois, and St. John like Riverhead, NY, CBC reports. In summer, the research showed average temperature increases of 5.5°C in Edmonton, 4.6°C in Calgary, 3.0°C in Winnipeg, 2.9°C in Toronto, and 2.4°C in Vancouver.

The mapping application behind the research tracked higher precipitation in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal, but drier conditions in Saint John, Quebec City, Ottawa, and Vancouver. In the U.S., it determined that New York City will feel more like Arkansas, Chicago like Kansas City, San Francisco like southern California, and Washington, DC like the Mississippi Delta, The Associated Press reports.

“The children alive today, like my daughter who is 12, they’re going to see a dramatic transformation of climate,” said lead author Matt Fitzpatrick, associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “It’s already under way.”

“We wanted to answer the question: How do we communicate these expected changes in a way that’s relatable to people?” Fitzpatrick told CBC. “The basic idea was to use this technique of climate analogue mapping, which isn’t a new technique…and to do that in a comprehensive way, so we can better communicate what these changes mean.”

While toastier weather might sound like a good idea at first glance, Fitzpatrick noted that a changing climate will bring serious challenges.

“If people like a warmer climate, they’re going to get it,” he said. “But what’s going to come along with that are much higher prices for things like food, when [climate change] disrupts agriculture. It’s going to have major impacts to other natural systems and infrastructure. We’re going to pay the price in some way for what some see as beneficial warming.”

“Sure, we all think warmer will be better, but let’s look at what’s included with the warmth,” agreed Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian climate scientist who heads the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, pointing to Lyme disease and invasive species moving to more northerly latitudes. “The area burned by wildfires has been increasing. The length of wildfire season has been increasing. Our summer extremes, our heat waves, and our heavy rain events are getting more frequent.”

While “it’s nice to have that spring or fall day that feels like summer,” Hayhoe added, “we have to realize it’s a package deal, and there are a lot of parts to this package that we’ve been fortunate to live without for the last few decades, last few centuries. But we’re getting that now.”