DC's Future Climate: What to Expect in the District as the Earth Gets Warmer

One study warns DC could feel like Greenwood, Mississippi, within 60 years if climate change continues unabated

Expect muggier summers, regular flooding and heavy rainstorms in and around the District if climate change goes unchecked, the Environmental Protection Agency and the District Department of Energy and Environment warn.

March 2019 was the second warmest March on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. But even more concrete is the real effects that will be apparent in the D.C. as the Earth gets warmer.

Coupled with effects such as extended allergy seasons and more time for mosquitoes to reproduce in the area, these changes may substantially alter the quality of life in the Washington area within a generation, warns Storm Team4 meteorologist Amelia Draper.

To get a taste of what D.C. will feel like in 60 years, scientists say all you need to do is take a trip to Greenwood, Mississippi. There, warmer and wetter summers are the norm, and subtropical climates from the Deep South could be in store for the DMV within a generation, Matt Fitzpatrick, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, told News4.

"It's safe to say that all seasons will be warmer, on an order of eight to ten degrees warmer on average," Fitzpatrick said. "All seasons will be wetter."

Fitzpatrick, whose recent study in the journal Nature Communications draws on climate projections from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimates that climates will shift 530 miles, meaning the D.C. area could feel more like the Deep South by 2080.

"In essence, not a lot of snow, not a lot of days with deep frost, so subtropical," Fitzpatrick said.

This combination of heat, humidity and heat waves poses a range of threats to quality of life for residents in the D.C. area.

Draper also noted that increasing rainfall in the D.C. area would add to another more visible problem: flooding along the Anacostia and Potomac riverfronts.

At the Tidal Basin, for example, flooding of pedestrian walkways has become a regular occurrence, overflowing 30 times per year. That kind of flooding used to only happen about six times during the 1950s.

And warmer temperatures mean longer growing seasons in the Mid-Atlantic region, lengthening the timing of pollen production, mosquito reproduction and even a greater chance for new diseases to develop.

For example, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America warn that a warming climate extends the allergy seasons and can make air pollution worse. The foundation reports that between 1995 and 2011, warmer temperatures have extended the pollen season by 11 to 27 days, creating more pollen and stronger allergens in the air.

"We'd also expect insects that are currently limited to the Southeast would have no problem establishing themselves here," Fitzpatrick said. "Disease is a complicated thing. They often need vectors. That's been a pattern we already see with some diseases from more tropical areas."


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But Fitzpatrick said D.C. area residents should not relegate themselves to this fate.

"We all contribute to the problem so we all can contribute to the solution," Fitzpatrick said. "If people think this is important and they are alarmed by it, I would suggest they get out and vote for policies in line with their concern."

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