The average temperature across the continental U.S. could be 8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of the 21st century under a climate scenario in which concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rise to 800 parts per million. Current concentrations stand at 400 parts per million, and are rising faster than at any time in Earth’s history.
These visualizations — which highlight computer model projections from the draft National Climate Assessment — show how average temperatures could change across the U.S. in the coming decades under two different carbon dioxide emissions scenarios.
Both scenarios project significant warming. A scenario with lower emissions, in which carbon dioxide reaches 550 parts per million by 2100, still projects average warming across the continental U.S. of 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The visualizations, which combine the results from 15 global climate models, present projections of temperature changes from 2000 to 2100 compared to the historical average from 1970 -1999. They were produced by the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., in collaboration with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, both in Asheville, N.C.
The visualizations show the temperature changes as a 30-year running average. The date seen in the bottom-right corner is the mid-point of the 30-year average being shown.
“These visualizations communicate a picture of the impacts of climate change in a way that words do not,” says Allison Leidner, Ph.D., a scientist who coordinates NASA’s involvement in the National Climate Assessment “When I look at the scenarios for future temperature and precipitation, I really see how dramatically our nation’s climate could change.”