Thursday, April 21, 2016

Warming Means Nicer U.S. Weather, but It Won’t Last

Crowds of sunbathers enjoy a beautiful day in Central Park. (Credit: flickr/Pauleon Tan) Click to Enlarge.
As the world has warmed over the past few decades, climate scientists have increasingly sounded the alarm over the potentially catastrophic impacts that warming could have on the world’s weather.  But in the U.S., that message may have been lost on most Americans because their day-to-day weather has actually become more pleasant, according to a new study in the journal Nature.

The study finds that overall winters in the U.S. have become much milder, while summers have not yet become sweltering — just how Americans seem to like their weather.

“Rising temperatures are ominous symptoms of global climate change, but Americans are experiencing them at times of the year when warmer days are welcomed,” study co-author Patrick Egan, a social scientist at New York University, said in a statement.

But this ideal balance won’t last — a reverse is looming, and the vast majority of Americans will see their typical weather become distinctly unpleasant, Egan and his co-author Megan Mullin found.

Welcome Weather Shift
In recent years, numerous surveys and studies conducted to suss out Americans’ opinions on climate change have showed that people’s perceptions “are influenced by their experience with the weather,” Mullin, a Duke University social scientist, said.  But those impressions are fleeting — an unusually warm summer or intense downpour is swiftly forgotten.

Reverse Looming
But this general shift to more pleasant weather is going to reverse itself as the century progresses.  Climate models show that summer temperatures will eventually rise more quickly than winter ones, leading to more stifling summer days.
In an email, Radley Horton, a Columbia University climate scientists who was not involved in the study, pointed out both the study’s limitation in terms of omitting extreme weather as well as the fact that it didn’t take into account “myriad less direct ways (besides preference) that people can be affected by climate change (such as insect pest expansion with warming winters).”  He said, though, that it was a “novel study” that gave a first look at climate preferences in the U.S.

Read more at Warming Means Nicer U.S. Weather, But It Won’t Last

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