Inhabitants of New York City know winter. The cold, the snow, the endless muddy slush, and the black ice lying in wait at every street corner — these are the things city-dwellers prepare for each year.
With another freezing February already in full swing, it may seem hard to imagine a winter in the Big Apple without these icy characteristics. But climate scientists from Climate Central, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to communicating climate science to the public, report that milder seasons may be on their way.
Researchers from Climate Central recently compiled winter projections for 697 US cities and put together a handy interactive graphic to explain the results. In each case, the graphic communicates how many below-freezing nights the city typically experiences in the winter and then tells how many below-freezing nights the city can expect, based on the latest climate models, in the year 2100. Finally, the graphic compares the projected number to another city in the US that already usually experiences that number of below-freezing nights.
The graphic shows us that, currently, New York City gets 79 nights below freezing each winter. But in 2100, the city can expect only 29 below-freezing nights. That’s the same number Killeen, Tex. usually gets today.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean New York’s average temperature will necessarily become the same as Killeen’s. The data only suggest that the number of freezing nights will drop substantially in New York City.
But speaking of temperature, a separate Climate Central data analysis indicated that the state of New York has been warming for several decades, with an overall increasing trend in its average winter temperature. The analysis also pegs New York as the eleventh-fastest warming state in the country, with temperatures rising at a rate of 0.91 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.
For New Yorkers who rejoice at the idea of milder winters, Climate Central has some bad news: “But warmer winters can have negative impacts: ski resorts need freezing temperatures for snow, some crops rely on a chill period, and pests can flourish year-round if winter temperatures aren’t cold-enough for them to die off,” the researchers write.
Luckily, these winter projections assume that carbon emissions will keep on increasing throughout the century, as they have done for the past several decades, pushing global temperatures skyward. This means if we can cap global carbon emissions soon enough, we might be able to save winter — not just in New York, but around the world.
The Climate Central analysis includes cities from every state. Give the graphic a shot and see how your city will fare in 100 years.
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