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There’s a new map of climate disasters in America

There’s a new map of climate disasters in America


The US has it all: floods, fire, extreme heat, and drought

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Statues of people are left behind amid the ruins of structures burned by the Mosquito Fire.
Burned structures after the Mosquito Fire blanketed the area in flames in Volcanoville, California, on September 11th, 2022
Photo by Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Biden administration launched a new website last week that maps the mess climate change is making across the US. From broiling heat to destructive floods, the new Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) website paints a picture in data of the disasters coming to Americans’ doorsteps. It’s also supposed to help local policymakers and their constituencies see how they might need to adapt in the coming decades.

The portal dives into five key threats exacerbated by climate change: extreme heat, drought, wildfire, inland flooding, and coastal inundation. Once you scroll past the website’s national map, you’ll find an interactive tool that zooms in on local impacts. Plug in a particular address, and you can pull up data organized by census tract, county, or tribal land using the website’s CMRA Assessment Tool. The tool lets you compare historical trends with projections for what the reality might look like roughly 10, 30, and 60 years from now.

An interactive tool that zooms in on local impacts

114,119,787 people are currently experiencing drought in the US, the website tells us. The parched land fuels wildfires, of which there are 308 raging across the country today. Fortunately, the data indicates that no Americans are under extreme heat alerts today. That’s a welcome relief after a heat dome trapped much of the western US in an astonishingly brutal and lengthy heatwave last week. But there are still close to 64 million people contending with flood alerts in the US after millions of residents already faced flash flooding threats last week.

I pulled up San Bernardino County in California on the portal, where I spent most of my childhood. Temperatures there climbed up to 111 degrees Fahrenheit a week ago during the heatwave. By the middle of the century, between 2035 and 2064, my hometown could see more than twice as many days with temperatures rising above 105 degrees as it did while I was growing up there, according to the CMRA Assessment Tool. The county only averaged about 22 days a year that hot between the 1970s and 2000s. That increases to nearly 45 days a year by the middle of the century with moderate action to limit climate change and as much as 52 days a year in a more pessimistic scenario with more planet-heating pollution.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contracted the geographic information system software company Esri to develop the portal. The new website was funded by NOAA and the Department of the Interior with money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was passed last year. That bill included more than $50 billion in federal funds to weatherize homes and harden the nation’s infrastructure to increasingly devastating droughts, fires, floods, and heat.

“Building climate resilience starts with communities, leaders, and other decision makers understanding their specific climate threats,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a September 8th press release. “CMRA provides the public with the same NOAA-powered data that the federal government relies on every day to make sound decisions about climate preparedness.”