Climate Change Hotspots & Uneven Extreme Warming in US

Climate Change Hotspots & Uneven Extreme Warming in US

According to a review of climate data by the Guardian, over a third of the American population has already been exposed to rapid, above-average rates of temperature increase. Almost 500 counties face 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, which will push them past the Paris Agreement's target.

Although the entire country will experience the impacts, certain regions have already been hit much harder. Large cities and swaths of the American West have been subjected to unprecedented warming, while much of the South remains unimpacted. Since temperature recording began in 1895, Ventura County, CA has experienced the greatest temperature increase of 2.62 degrees C, followed by Grand County, UT with a rise of 2.57 degrees C.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

Why This Matters

Preliminary data shows 2021 was one of the hottest years on record, and the consequences are becoming increasingly apparent. But as Alaska-based climate scientist Brian Brettschneider states: "The warming isn't distributed evenly. Many places have seen dramatic changes, but there are always some places below the average who will think, 'It didn't seem that warm to me.' The impacts differ depending where you are."

The American West is the driest it's been in 1,200 years and becoming increasingly accustomed to increased heatwaves and a longer wildfire season in the midst of the megadrought. Northern Minnesota is home to the top five fastest-warming counties on the continent, with winter temperatures rising by up to 7 degrees F since 1895.

While people may say they enjoy warmer winters, University of Minnesota climate scientist Heidi Roop warns that "even small temperature changes have big consequences."

PBS: Western states face a bleak future amid the worst drought in more than 1,000 years, February 15, 2022.

Guardian: The climate science behind wildfires - why are they getting worse?, August 20, 2021.

The Last Frontier Is The First To Go

The most rapid warming is occurring in Alaska, where temperatures have risen by 3.72 degrees C since 1971 in North Slope County and 3.11 degrees C in Northwest Arctic County. Melting permafrost (frozen soil) is causing the state's buildings and roads to buckle. In December, unprecedented warming followed by abrupt cooling left towns and roads covered in ice while residents had to wait out the thaw, in an event coined "Icemageddon."

CBS: Alaska Records All-Time December High Of 67 Degrees, December 30, 2021.