We’re always hearing about the dramatic changes happening to the landscape in the Arctic. However, we don’t frequently get to see exactly how climate change is affecting us here in the U.S.
Unfortunately, climate change is already affecting things like the weather and farming.
The 100th Meridian
Back in the late 19th century, the U.S. Geological Survey established a boundary line. This line denoted where the arid, desert-like climate in the west separated from the much more humid east.
The 100th Meridian was originally one hundred degrees west of Greenwich, hence the name.
While it does have a neat, round number, it also roughly marks a dividing line between these two different climates. Agriculture to the west of the line is typically dependent on heavy irrigation, to the east is much wetter.
Since 1980, however, the dividing line has shifted more than 140 miles to the east, which changes how we farm.
Plant Hardiness Zones
The United States’ plant hardiness zones are also changing. Apparently, they’ve been moving about 13 miles north by the decade.
From 1990 to 2015, some zones have shifted as many as two to three zones from where they once were. Most of this is due to increasing temperatures, which will, unfortunately, continue to rise if we don’t curb emissions.
If you thought Oklahoma was the primary hotspot for tornadoes, well, you were once correct. However, in the past 50 years, tornado alley has also shifted 500 miles towards the southeast.
These days, there are actually higher numbers for tornadic activity in states like Mississippi and Alabama.
Every year, natural disasters become more and more costly. In 2018, the world saw approximately 39 billion dollars in damages from weather-related disasters according to global insurance broker Aon.
In their report, the U.S. topped the list of countries that suffered billion-dollar disasters with 16 total.
According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, severe weather impacting the U.S. included two tropical cyclones for starters. There were also two winter storms, eight other severe storms, droughts, and wildfires that ravaged California.
Those that affected California were the costliest – and the most deadly – in the state’s history. It set a new U.S. record, too, as the fires reached nearly $24 billion in damages.
According to NCEI, from 1980 to 2018, the U.S. had a yearly average of about 6.2 disasters with damages in the billions. From 2014 to 2018, however, that average more than doubled to 12.6.