Americans have been enjoying more and more pleasant weather since the 1970s, says a new report published in Nature, but that’s about to change. While the overall climate has warmed, the biggest changes have been seen in the winter months, with average maximum temperatures rising during the coldest parts of the year, making the changes welcome rather than worrying.
And the milder winters have combined with a drop in humidity during the summer, also making for a more comfortable climate. These so-far agreeable effects of climate change are a big reason why the population isn’t pushing its politicians to fix the problem.
"Weather patterns in recent decades have been a poor source of motivation for Americans to demand policies to combat the climate change problem," writes study co-author Megan Mullin, of Duke University, in a press release.
But summers are about to get hotter too. "Climate change models predict that this trend is temporary," says the paper, "because U.S. summers will eventually warm more than winters."
The Mullin and her research partner Patrick Egan studied the climate history of the U.S., county by county for the period between 1974 an 2013, and also referred to other studies on how we perceive climate change. They discovered that short-term, local fluctuations are the most likely to get us talking about climate change. "[T]hose living in places experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures at the time they were surveyed were significantly more likely than others to say there is evidence for global warming," says the study.
The result of Mullin and Egan’s work is a "weather preference index" (WPI), which does just what is sounds like, measuring the average American’s preference for precipitation, temperature, and summer humidity. This index shows that, as the century wears on, the weather is most likely to exceed the current comfort zone. This will finally force us to realize that something is amiss, and demand that our governmental representatives do something about it. The WPI predicts that 88% of U.S. residents won’t be happy with the weather in the future.
"Without serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, year-round climates ultimately will become much less pleasant," writes Mullin.
However, the changes will continue to be slow, and may not arrive fast enough to motivate the reforms we need to combat climate change. Then again, maybe the summer heat will be sop stifling that we’ll all just stop working, the economy will collapse, and we’ll be too lazy to keep ruining the planet.