Climate change likely to cause migration to the Northwest
Tired of massive annual wildfires? Is that shoreline home close to the water sinking? Raging storms got you down? Well, come on down to Seattle where the weather is just fine-ish.
Northwest leaders have been preparing for an influx of tech workers over the coming years, especially in Seattle. But the population boom may swell even more than expected as climate change continues to intensify seasonal activity around the country. The Emerald City and the Pacific Northwest may just shine a little brighter for people fleeing unwanted climates.
Business Insider has recently ranked the areas most suited to withstand climate change over the next few decades. It lists Seattle — and the Pacific Northwest region, in general — as the best city to take on the challenge.
This echoes experts such as University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass, who has frequently said that unlike other regions, the Northwest is not currently seeing the dramatic effects of global warming. But he also has told KIRO Radio that, “By the end of the century, that won’t be true. By the end of the century, human-inspired changes will be dominant.” However, he expects that Washington state will remain relatively stable as the Earth further warms.
According to Mass, there will likely be slow increases in Northwest temperatures until about 2050, when things will heat up more dramatically. The number of days spent at 90 degrees or more will also increase, and he expects about a 5 to 10 percent increase in regional precipitation. Extreme precipitation events by 2100 could rise by 30 to 40 percent, meaning flooding will become an issue.
It also means less snow will fall at lower elevations, and annual snowmelt will occur about three to four weeks earlier than usual.
Northwest climate migration
Now if you happen to be among the crowd of deniers out there — which at this point is like going to 97 doctors giving you a terminal diagnosis, then saying, “what do they know?” — it really doesn’t matter if climate change is real or not. Whether you think the climate is warming naturally or that humans have influenced the issue, most Americans agree that it’s a problem.
To be clear, climate change (influenced by humans) is not causing hurricanes, storms, flooding, etc. Climate change, however, is making these natural occurrences worse than they would have been otherwise. We’ve just seen the three hottest years on record, which have been experienced differently across the United States.
According go a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 71 percent of Americans believe weather-related disasters are becoming more intense. And 45 percent say human-influenced climate change is a contribution to the problem (12 percent say it’s not). Those people are more apt to look for greener pastures or Pacific temperate rain forests.
Business Insider reports that the Northwest as a whole is a good option, but the infrastructure around Seattle is newer than in other cities across the region and will more likely handle the shift. The Puget Sound region’s population grew by 12 percent between 2005 and 2015. It’s set to jump another 13 percent by 2020 as the boom continues. These figures do not consider people fleeing change in their current climates.
The population of Florida is about 20.6 million. The City of Houston is 2.3 million. About 3.4 million people live in Puerto Rico. All three regions were considerably struck by hurricanes over the past season; hurricanes that are expected to worsen over the coming years. New York is expected to experience increasing heat waves by 2050, while droughts are likely to become more common in California.
The Northwest is expected to see some dramatic changes. For example, many species of tall trees could die off and be replaced by plants previously uncommon to the region. There is an expectation that Washington will continue to fight worsening wildfires. But Washington’s flooding and abundance of rain could appear relatively less threatening than hurricanes and droughts.