Fargo-Moorhead residents take pride in our winter toughness, griping about frigid temperatures while boasting to the world just exactly how cold it is here compared to most other places in the United States.
You think the good folks in South Sioux City, Neb., have that same satisfaction?
Unless man doesn't do something to change the climate curve, we're going to find out.
Scientists at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science have released an interactive map that allows users to match the expected future climate of one city with the current climate of another.
The climate forecast for 2080 says Fargo's climate then will be like South Sioux City's today. The city at the northeastern corner of Nebraska is about 325 miles south of Fargo-Moorhead, about 90 miles from Sioux Falls, S.D.
The typical winter in South Sioux City is 12.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and 39.8 percent wetter than winter in Fargo, according to data on the map. Summers in South Sioux City are 4.4 degrees warmer and 20.1 percent wetter.
Great! That means winters in Fargo-Moorhead will be warmer, shorter, more rainy than snowy — generally more tolerable. The golf courses will be open a month longer. It's all good, right?
For some, maybe. But scientists have long said the environmental consequences of a warmer planet will far outweigh benefits. Food production, flooding and severe weather will all be markedly different. Mosquitoes, ticks and other pests that transmit diseases could spread to new areas as temperatures warm.
It's not just the northern half of the U.S. that will be affected, of course. Every area of the country will warm. San Francisco is projected to have a climate resembling Los Angeles' by 2080. Los Angeles will be more like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The scientists didn't know how to sketch out what the future of Gulf Coast cities look like because they couldn't find good matches in North America.
First reported in Nature Communications and broadly disseminated by the Los Angeles Times, the work of Matthew Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland and Robert Dunn of North Carolina State University lays out in digestible terms what the climate of the U.S. will look like in six decades if man continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the same rate we do today.
"Portland, which currently averages 155 rainy days per year, will feel like Sacramento, where only 59 days of the year have rain. And the New York City of the future will be like the Jonesboro, Ark., of today," the Times said.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, the map says, will be more like Kansas City — which means extremely mild winters and stiflingly humid summers.
Grand Forks' climate will resemble that of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bismarck and Minot will be like Mitchell, S.D.
The climate information Fitzpatrick and Dunn used is not new, but they tried to put it in terms Americans could easily understand.
"We don't think most Americans will know what the climate is like in a city in China or India. The goal is to make climate change less abstract and something people can relate to based on their own experience," Fitzpatrick told the Times.
They compiled 2080 climate projections for 540 cities in North America, looking at average maximum temperature, average minimum temperature and total precipitation for all four seasons. A technique called climate analog mapping was used to match the expected future climate with one city with the current climate of another.
Fargo's annual average high temperature is 52. 5 degrees, compared to 59.6 in South Sioux City, according to U.S. climate data. The average lows are 31.9 degrees and 37.3. Average precipitation in Fargo is 22.58 inches while South Sioux City's is 27.73 inches.
The most stark contrast might come in January, the coldest month on average. The average high temperature in Fargo in January is 18 degrees with an average low of 0. South Sioux City's average high is 31, with an average low of 10.
That isn't so tough to deal with.
The wide-reaching issues wrought by that relative warmth, however, will be.