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SF weather will feel like LA in 60 years

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Climate researchers say future warming will turn NorCal into something more like contemporary SoCal

The sun rising over San Francisco’s skyline. Photo by Pete Niesen

Last week, environmental scientists from the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications explaining that within 60 or 70 years, San Francisco weather will have adopted LA-like conditions year round thanks to climate change.

The paper, titled “Contemporary Climatic Analogs For 540 North American Urban Areas,” attempts to provide a realistic forecast for conditions in the near future across the continent.

Authors Robert R. Dunn and Matthew C. Fitzpatrick write:

By the 2080s, and even given the optimistic mitigated emissions scenario, climate of North American urban areas will feel substantially different than they do today, and in many cases unlike contemporary climates found anywhere in the western hemisphere north of the equator. [...] The climates of western cities are expected to become more like those of the desert Southwest or southern California—warmer in all seasons, with changes in the amount and seasonal distribution of precipitation.

That’s pretty straightforward but, pardon the phrase, a little dry. So there’s an interactive map that goes along with the research to illustrate the point more vividly. Simply plug in a city and get a warm and hazy forecast for a generation from now.

For example, “San Francisco’s climate in 2080 will feel most like today’s climate near Palos Verdes Estates, California.”

Palo Verdes Estates, a coastal town in LA County, averages between 48 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit in February, versus SF’s current parameters of 41 to 68.

While that might not sound like a big change, it means that “the average winter is [...] 40 percent drier than winter in San Francisco.”

Photo by View Apart

Cities like Concord will now feel more like Rosedale (only 0.5 degrees warmer in the winter but also more than 60 percent drier), while San Jose will resemble Glendale (7.7 degrees warmer, with 25 percent less rain in winter).

Change is even more sweeping in the future for the North Bay. Vacaville, for example, will “feel most like today’s climate near Guadalupe Victoria, Mexico,” where the “typical summer in Guadalupe Victoria is 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and 187.8 percent wetter than summer in Vacaville.”

Next week’s Guadalupe Victoria forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s, as opposed to Vacaville, which will be in the high 50s.

The changes facing Northern California are dramatic, but they’re nothing compared to conditions further south.

LA, for example, will soon resemble Las Palmas, Mexico, if the researchers’ formula is to be believed. That means summers that are nearly six degrees warmer and a more than 2,000 percent increase in precipitation during the season.

In short, “the average urban dweller in the United States would have to drive nearly [621 miles] to get to a climate like that likely to be experienced in their city” within a generation.

For more, the full details are available in Nature Communications.