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100 cities where summer is starting earlier

  • 100 cities where summer is starting earlier

    Many have wondered what effects the heat of this upcoming summer 2020 will have on the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but less-questioned are what effects the coronavirus pandemic will have on the future climates of U.S. cities. Many government funds globally are being allocated toward economic relief programs, at the cost of funding programs dedicated to mitigating the effects of global warming.

    The number of 90-degree (or higher) days the United States experiences annually may double by 2050, with cities across the United States warming at different rates depending on their location. Climates heating up throughout the year leads to more higher-temperature days overall annually, meaning that summer—at least as defined by the threshold average temperature experienced in the city—is arriving anywhere from days to weeks earlier across the country.

    But an earlier summer isn’t just the harbinger of sunshine. Rising temperatures can unleash an array of climate events, including floods, coastal erosion, and drought, depending on the region in question. These effects can in turn impact local health, economies, and housing, among other sectors. The University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science has created an interactive map that allows U.S. citizens to explore what their city will feel like over the next six decades as climate change intensifies. Historically-cooler cities may come to resemble their warmer and more humid counterparts; but for many cities, there is “no modern equivalent” for the climate that will soon characterize their area.

    In order to find the cities where summer is starting earlier, Stacker analyzed data provided by nonprofit climate communication organization Climate Central in a May 2020 report. For every city, Climate Central analyzed historical temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Applied Climate Information System, over a study period from 1970 to 2019. Using the historical trend, a seasonal maximum temperature, or threshold temperature, is calculated for every city. The number of days earlier that summer begins is the difference in days between 2019 and 1970 when the threshold temperature is first met. All degrees posted, including projected temperature increases, refer to Fahrenheit. Average, highest, and lowest summer temperatures for individual cities are from the NOAA's Time Series Database when available.

    Read on to find out how much sooner summer is coming to your city, and what other effects climate change will likely bring in the coming decades.

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  • #100. Roanoke, Virginia

    - Days earlier: 9.6
    - Summer threshold temperature: 85° F
    - Average summer temperature: 73.49° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 93.7° F (August 2007)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 53° F (September 1976)

    As summer comes earlier to Roanoke, so too would higher springtime temperatures and an increased risk of wildfires. Besides the threats this poses to the city’s residents, it may also create challenges for Virginia’s state bird, the northern cardinal.

  • #98. Madison, Wisconsin (tie)

    - Days earlier: 9.8
    - Summer threshold temperature: 80° F
    - Average summer temperature: 67.58° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 90.6° F (July 2012)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 43.7° F (September 1976)

    Beyond introducing an earlier summer, climate change is also expected to raise the intensity of storms, precipitation, and high temperatures in Madison, across all seasons. To prepare, the city is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin to strengthen its infrastructure, including improving the capacities of its roads, bridges, and sewer systems.

  • #98. Bangor, Maine (tie)

    - Days earlier: 9.8
    - Summer threshold temperature: 75° F
    - Average summer temperature: 64.81° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 83.4° F (July 1995)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 42.4° F (September 1995)

    This coastal city is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, with an 88% risk of a significant flood event hitting residents between now and 2050. Luckily, many initiatives, including the Maine Coastal Program and Maine Sea Grant, are dedicated to preparing Bangor and other nearby cities.

  • #97. Anchorage, Alaska

    - Days earlier: 9.9
    - Summer threshold temperature: 65° F
    - Average summer temperature: 55.14° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 73.1° F (July 2019)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 33.8° F (September 1992)

    On the opposite side of the country, coastal Anchorage’s community and economic stability are likely facing increased wildfires, lower snowfalls, and disturbed species life cycles. The city is at the helm of guarding against climate change’s anticipated effects, issuing a climate action plan in September 2019 that uniquely prioritized local indigenous communities’ perspectives.

  • #96. State College, Pennsylvania

    - Days earlier: 10.1
    - Summer threshold temperature: 80° F

    Perhaps the most noticeable harbinger of a warming climate in State College is the record rainfall, which is expected to only increase in frequency and intensity in the coming years. In June 2019, the city passed a resolution pledging to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero and reach 100% renewable energy over the next three decades.

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  • #94. Evansville, Indiana (tie)

    - Days earlier: 10.4
    - Summer threshold temperature: 85° F
    - Average summer temperature: 74.98° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 97.3° F (July 2012)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 52.8° F (September 1974)

    Largely due to the city’s heavy carbon emissions, Evansville is expected to experience higher temperatures more quickly than other parts of Indiana. Local government has been attentive to ways the city can curb the ensuing effects, noting possibilities for emissions-efficient transportation, renewable energy, and other alternatives.

  • #94. Alexandria, Louisiana (tie)

    - Days earlier: 10.4
    - Summer threshold temperature: 90° F

    As Alexandria is not a coastal city, it is not facing the extreme risk of coastal erosion and flooding that more-southern areas are in Louisiana. However, the city is still expected to experience drought and an increase in summer precipitation as its climate warms.

  • #90. Traverse City, Michigan (tie)

    - Days earlier: 10.5
    - Summer threshold temperature: 80° F

    Traverse City is expected to warm by 3 to 4 degrees in the near future, a change significant enough to usher in more frequent and intense precipitation year-round, likely resulting in flooding. The local agricultural industry in particular is poised to suffer. The city is feeling these effects more rapidly than other parts of the state.

  • #90. Sacramento, California (tie)

    - Days earlier: 10.5
    - Summer threshold temperature: 90° F
    - Average summer temperature: 73.68° F
    - Highest recorded summer temperature: 98.1° F (July 1988)
    - Lowest recorded summer temperature: 52.1° F (September 1986)

    By the end of the 21st century, it is expected that seasonal temperatures in Sacramento will have all increased by around 10 degrees. As a result, the city will likely see more common instances of intense drought, wildfires, and floods, threats local government is attempting to guard against with a variety of emissions-cutting policies.

  • #90. Parkersburg, West Virginia (tie)


    - Days earlier: 10.5
    - Summer threshold temperature: 85° F

    Parkersburg may warm by 5 degrees within the next few decades, a change likely accompanied by both drought and floods. The area’s significant forests—including its red spruce population—are particularly sensitive to changes in climate, and may be negatively impacted.

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