What are the challenges?

Climate change will have a profound impact on the future of North Central Texas, however, we are already beginning to feel many of the effects today.

Heat Waves and Higher Temperatures

THeat Wavehe average annual temperature will increase in Dallas, especially if we do not begin to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  In climate models, this is referred to as the “high emissions scenario”.  Temperatures during the summer are frequently over 100°F, and by the middle of this century, we can expect about 20 MORE days over 100°F under the high emissions scenario.  By the end of this century, models predict that we will have around 100 days over 100°F every year.  These heat waves will be more frequent, hotter, and longer than the ones we have experienced historically.  Not only does this pose a health threat by heat stroke and other heat-related illness, but it also creates stagnant air conditions, resulting in poor air quality.  Extreme heat also increases stress on the energy supply, and combined with cold, wet winters, will also shorten the lifespan of our roads.

Drought

Texas Wildfire

Photo by Eric Schlegel, AP

Heat waves will also contribute to droughts by drying out the soil and evaporating water from our reservoirs.  Climate models also predict a decrease in overall annual precipitation, and an increase the number, intensity, and length of severe droughts.  This will strain the water supply for the region, as well as degrade the water quality of our lakes and rivers, since pollutants will become more concentrated.  Droughts also increase the risk of wildfires, which have already become a problem.

Floods

It may be counter-intuitive, but severe flooding events will also become more frequent.  Over the next few decades, seasonal swings in weather will be fairly extreme, with colder, wetter winters and hotter, dryer summers.  It doesn’t even out, though.  Most of the rainfall will occur during the spring in heavy precipitation events, and droughts will still be a problem the rest of the year.

Health Risks

Culex quinquefasciatus, vector for the West Nile Virus

Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, vector for the West Nile virus

More carbon dioxide in the air results in increased pollen production in some plants, like ragweed.  This, combined with a longer growing season thanks to warmer fall and winter temperatures, can result in worsening allergies for some people.  It may also trigger higher asthma and respiratory illness rates.  Changing climate also results in increased risk from vector-borne illnesses (diseases that use another animal or insect as a host for part of their life cycle).  We all know about the West Nile Virus, but others like the Chikungunya Virus and Chagas Disease could move into new territory as the range of the host organism expands or changes.  The Zika Virus, another vector-borne disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has grabbed headlines recently.  Currently, it is not being spread by mosquitoes in Dallas.

To learn more about how climate change will impact our area, visit Climate Change Impacts in the United States.

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