Much hotter summers, loss of forests expected as Virginia climate heats up
“It’s not just ‘global warming’ now,” says author Stephen Nash, “but ‘Arlington Warming’ or ‘Richmond Warming.’ Regional modeling allows climatologists to project just how hot we can expect typical summers to be in the Fairfax, Norfolk, Danville or the Roanoke area.”
Wide ranging climate change impacts throughout Virginia are detailed in a new book, Virginia Climate Fever, by journalist Stephen Nash. Those impacts range from sea level rise, to acidification of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, to summers with far more sweltering 90+ days than Virginians now experience.
See the projections at VIRGINIACLIMATEFEVER.COM
As average global temperature rises — and depending on how the world responds to the threat of climate change — Virginians could experience a climate closer to Alabama or Mississippi. As a result, scientists have projected that Virginia’s forested lands may be lost to drought, fire, or insect pests in a “big die-off,” to be replaced by the shrubs and grasslands of a savanna. Diseases more typical of the tropics including dengue fever and chikungunya are more likely to pose public health risks, according to infectious disease experts.
The book lays out climate projections for Virginia by Texas Tech University Professor Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist. For the first time, the data allows Virginians to consider projected temperature increases where they live as the global average temperature rises.
If greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the global atmosphere at current rates, Fairfax County could see nearly double the number of 90+ degree days in a typical summer over the next few decades, and more as the heat continues to build. In Richmond, sticky summer days of 90+ could increase from from 36 days to 60, well before mid-century. Even Highland County, known for its pleasantly cool summers, could see 90-degree days quadruple, with more on the way as global warming increases.
“Steve Nash’s book allows Virginians to glimpse a future they can still shape,” said Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia climate scientist who is now a professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. “If we don’t like that future, we can take actions now to reduce carbon pollution — actions like the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants,” Mann said.