Southeast 2050 Forecast Script

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and we’ve got your 2050 climate forecast for the Southeast.  If you’re south of Virginia and east of Arkansas, I’m talking to you.  There are changes coming to your area for which you will want to be prepared.

This is particularly true for those of you who live anywhere near the coast.  You’ve noticed that hurricanes are causing more intense wind and water damage.  That’s going to continue.  We all know how bad the rains have been with those, and the storm surge.  That kind of water damage is hard to repair, and we’re going to be dealing with more of that in the years to come.  It was truly inspiring to see how well those new levees held in Louisiana with Hurricane Ida.  I was there during Katrina.  Seeing the growing resilience of the region during Ida, it truly gave me both comfort and hope.  From now until 2030, we’re going to see things really start accelerating, so we need more of that resilience.

If you’ve been thinking of getting off the coast, you think maybe you don’t want to deal with all that, and you’ve got any flexibility, you should make your move now.  We’re looking at an increasingly realistic forecast of three feet of sea level rise on the coast of this region by 2050.  Now, you can imagine, that is going to impact a lot of cities, a lot of people.  Florida, the Carolinas, your coastal cities are going to be particularly hard hit.  There is no real way to stop the rise.  You want to get ready now.

Now I know that is upsetting what I’ve been talking about, it is pretty extreme.  But the situation for those coastal cities, for Florida in general, it is looking pretty extreme.  There is going to be a big changeover in what the land looks like in this whole Southeastern region by 2050.  The government reports call it a transformation.  There will be different plants, different animals, different birds, a changeover as extreme as we can expect to see anywhere in the country, and the change is going to be most dramatic near the coast.  Thinking of the magnitude of these predicted changes, it is hard to fathom.  I moved to New Orleans as a young woman in good part because I love the many beautiful landscapes of the South.  I love to be in a rhododendron hollow- if I know the way out.  I love the smell of the bayou.  The thought that all of these things are going to change, and change in ways can’t yet be predicted-  This was the saddest thing I read in all those government reports, and there was a lot in there that made me very sad.  Things will be worst near the coast.   

Some bright spots in the South, those are going to be in the inland areas.  The broad agricultural area around McMinville, Tennessee in particular looks to have a pretty protected climate, pretty stable.  Some of the cities are looking good, too.  Atlanta, we all know Atlanta is a real powerhouse, and, for the region, Atlanta has a pretty good forecast.  Raleigh-Durham, it’s going to get hotter, but the whole research triangle is looking manageable, if tropical.  There are places in the South that can be really fortified against the changes that are coming, that can give you a real strong foothold for resilience, and I can get you more detail on that with a local forecast. 

Now, in these places where you want to dig in and prepare, here’s an idea of what’s coming ahead by 2050.  Warmer nights, making it harder to cool off from a hot day.  More intense storms, with longer dry periods between them.  It’s going to be important to handle water.  Not just drainage, but storage.  What water you get, in many areas, you’re going to want to be able to store, and you’re going to want to keep it safe from mosquitos.  There are new mosquitos moving in that will carry dangerous tropical diseases.

You’re also going to want to think about cooling.  Cooling is important now, it’s only going to get more important.  You’ve got the potential in this region for humid heat waves, wet heat waves, that could be deadly for healthy people and healthy large animals.  Even in the shade, even while drinking water, these heatwaves could be deadly.  So developing energy independence, some energy stability, is going to be so crucial for community health.

When you’re thinking about what to grow, what to plant, you should anticipate a shift in this region of at least 2 agricultural zones by 2050, 2060.  That’s a big shift.  That could be a big change in what you grow.  I have seen some projections that suggest we will be able to grow mangos in Georgia.  There will be big changes in tree crops.  The South is a place where we need to start planting the trees for tomorrow. 

There’s some tools you should check out if you want to get a clearer picture of what’s going to happen where you live.  They’ll be posted on my website.  If you’re on the coast, be sure to check out the sea level rise tool.  And if you’re a person who cares about trees or orchards, I’ve got a great forestry tool to help you get an idea of what kind of shift we’re talking about on your land.  There’re some good places to dig in in the South, we all know there are tough people, and there are resilient places.  I want you to have all the information you need to prepare. 

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.