50 ways the weather could change in the next 50 years
In 2016, the United States signed the Paris Agreement—a global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions to pre-industrial levels. The goal: keep the Earth's temperature from rising higher than 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Every country in the world has joined the pledge. In 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. While Trump has been vocal in his disbelief in climate change, scientists are more than 95% certain that humans are causing the Earth to heat up at an unprecedented rate, worsening extreme weather events like hurricanes, flooding, drought, and intense heat waves.
Global temperatures are already about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than they were in the 1800s. A degree or two may not seem like a big deal, but if the Earth warms 2 degrees Celsius instead of 1.5, that could increase heat waves, kill coral reefs, melt the summer ice in the Arctic, and further strengthen storms. In 2019, the World Meteorological Organization released a study saying climate change catalyzed extreme weather that affected 62 million people in 2018; floods and droughts were the most damaging. In March of 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai brought deadly flooding to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi; scientists think it might be the worst weather-related storm in Southern Hemisphere history. The past four years have also broken records for heat worldwide; the Lucifer heat wave scorched Europe in 2017, and England's hottest summer on record was 2018.
One reason weather can cause more damage when the world gets hotter is because warmer air can hold more moisture. That means when there is a rainstorm or blizzard, more precipitation comes with it, drowning cities or covering them in feet of snow. In 50 years, scientists predict that extreme weather exacerbated by a warming planet will disrupt ocean currents and extend heat waves.
Using data from news reports, the World Meteorological Organization, the Climate Impact Lab, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Stacker created a list of 50 ways weather could change in the next 50 years. Click through to see which areas may be affected the most.
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Almost every U.S. city would get warmer
In the next few decades, both winter and summer days are predicted to get hotter in almost every U.S. city. Depending on the location, the change in temperature might be slight, or it could be dramatic. Every large American city—save San Diego—will see a rise of at least 3 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Heat waves could last longer and some areas in the Southwest could get so hot it will be dangerous to venture outdoors for too long.
Cities in the Midwest could see most dramatic winter shifts
Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Detroit are set to experience an uptick in their winter lows by about 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Cities in Montana, Minnesota, and Illinois are also predicted to have hotter summers, experiencing an average increase of 6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Climate change might cause more “weather whiplash”
During the winter of 2019, places in the Midwest and Northeast experienced sub-zero temperature shifts that changed 50 degrees in a matter of days. This “weather whiplash”—which can burst pipes and cause flooding because of quickly melting snow and ice—might be more common in a warming world. The dramatic change was due in part to a shift in the polar vortex, which some scientists say might be caused by the warming in the Arctic.
Osaka, Japan could see more flooding
Osaka, Japan is already seeing late-season typhoons and extreme rainfall. By 2070, economists predict that a rise in global sea-level along with storm surges could cause coastal flooding so bad it could cost Osaka $1 trillion. The country is already trying to deal with the effects caused by climate change, but they haven't quite figured out the best method to protect the city in the future. “We anticipate that Osaka will be affected by natural disasters caused by climate change, but we have yet to establish exactly what might happen or how much financial damage they would cause,” said Toshikazu Nakaaki with the Osaka municipal government's environment bureau.
Alexandria, Egypt could be underwater
Tourism is already taking a hit because of flooding in Egypt's seaside towns close to the Mediterranean; some of the beaches have already washed away. If current predictions hold true, Alexandria, Egypt will be partially submerged by 2070. As the end of the century approaches, the sea could rise as much as two feet.
The Middle East could get warmer and drier
The sea near Egyptian fishing towns is already warming; some say it's forcing bigger fish to reside farther out in deeper waters, causing a problem for fishermen. In the next 40 years, the Middle East itself is also predicted to get hotter—possibly by an average of a few degrees—and to receive less rainfall. This change could affect agricultural production and lead to food scarcity.
Heavy storms could drench communities more severely
If the Earth continues to warm, there will be more water evaporating from the ocean and more water vapor in the atmosphere. This will lead to more rain and snowfall in each heavy storm. Areas in the Northeast have already experienced a 74% increase in their precipitation in their heaviest winter and summer storms.
Greenland could be ice-free in the summer
The ice sheet on Greenland is melting at a faster rate than previously thought, which is contributing to sea level rise. If it hits a tipping point within the next few decades, the melting will accelerate, leaving Greenland ice-free in the summer. "Rather than increasing steadily as climate warms, Greenland will melt increasingly more and more for every degree of warming. The melting and sea level rise we've observed already will be dwarfed by what may be expected in the future as the climate continues to warm," said Luke Trusel, a glaciologist at Rowan University's School of Earth and Environment.
Heat waves could increase
Over the coming decades, temperatures are set to rise during summer. That makes the air feel hot, but it also reduces the moisture in the soil, which makes heat waves even worse. Climate models show that the top 5% of hottest days during the summers of 1950–1979 will happen about 70% of the time by 2035–2064 in the U.S. That means that what used to happen about once every 20 years will start happening every few years. This change could be especially dangerous to the health of the elderly and anyone who works outside for a living.
Droughts could get worse
Between 2050–2100, areas in the southwestern U.S. and central Great Plains could see the worst droughts in nearly 1,000 years. “Even where rain may not change much, greater evaporation will dry out the soils,” said Benjamin Cook, a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. While scientists aren't sure exactly when these extreme drought conditions will start, they are creating more drought-resistant crops to prepare.