Resilient Together: Discover

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A community is a system of interconnected parts that rely on one another. Climate change has the potential to affect our local ecosystem, public health, infrastructure, and livelihoods.

Impacts from climate change are already being felt in Virginia, from rising sea levels on the coast to increasingly severe flash floods and heat waves inland. In the future, we can expect increased impacts of climate change to include shifts in local temperature, precipitation, and seasonal patterns, as well as the ripple effects of environmental impacts outside of our region.

Though our region’s direct risks are lower than many other areas, preparing for the shocks and stressors brought on by a warming world will reduce the harmful impacts on our community. The more we work together to prepare for these impacts, the more resilient our community will be.

Below, in the “topics” section, you will find information introducing some of the challenges associated with climate change.

A community is a system of interconnected parts that rely on one another. Climate change has the potential to affect our local ecosystem, public health, infrastructure, and livelihoods.

Impacts from climate change are already being felt in Virginia, from rising sea levels on the coast to increasingly severe flash floods and heat waves inland. In the future, we can expect increased impacts of climate change to include shifts in local temperature, precipitation, and seasonal patterns, as well as the ripple effects of environmental impacts outside of our region.

Though our region’s direct risks are lower than many other areas, preparing for the shocks and stressors brought on by a warming world will reduce the harmful impacts on our community. The more we work together to prepare for these impacts, the more resilient our community will be.

Below, in the “topics” section, you will find information introducing some of the challenges associated with climate change.

  • Background Information: Global Warming and Climate Change

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    Weather is the atmospheric conditions of a place at any given point in time. Climate is the weather conditions of a place over a long period of time. Climate change is the long-term shift of weather patterns around the world, including here in Central Virginia.

    The atmosphere is the layer of gases that surrounds the planet and makes life on Earth possible. It is mostly – more than 98% – made up of nitrogen and oxygen. The rest is argon, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activity like burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests has dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. These gases act like a blanket over the Earth and trap heat from the sun, similar to how the walls of a greenhouse work. The extra heat and energy trapped in the atmosphere from the excess greenhouse gases is the cause of climate change. The average global temperature has risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius (or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. That may not seem like a lot when we are thinking about the weather, but it makes a big difference related to the climate. The Earth will not stop trapping heat and getting warmer until we are able to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    Learn more: What's the Big Deal with a Few Degrees? (video)

  • Background Information: Extreme Heat

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    In central Virginia, we expect longer and hotter heat waves, as well as increasing numbers of individual days with extremely hot temperatures. For example, the number of days per year in our area that exceed 95°F is likely to increase from 5-10 days currently to 35 days in 2050 and 75 days by the end of the century. Extreme heat can lead to heat-related illness, increasing demand for emergency services. High minimum temperatures (e.g., nighttime lows above 80°F) can affect the body’s ability to regulate and recover from the stress of extreme heat during the day, with children especially affected. The urban heat island effect can exacerbate exposure to heat waves among community members in the urban area, where less tree cover and more buildings and asphalt lead to higher temperatures.

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  • Background Information: Drought

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    Climate models for our region tell a mixed story—some predicting a wetter future, others predicting a dryer future. On average, these models predict longer dry spells between rain events, with heavier rain when storms do occur. A sixfold increase in the likelihood of major drought by 2050 and longer dry periods in general will put increased stress on trees and our community’s water supply. Drought and flooding have an important relationship: longer periods without rainfall punctured by stronger storms can also increase the likelihood of flooding, as we’ll explain below.

    Story Map

  • Background Information: Flooding

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    As the effects of climate change intensify, our region is predicted to experience increasingly intense precipitation (rain or snow) events. As the Earth warms, water evaporates more quickly from soils, oceans, and other water bodies. Additionally, warmer air holds more moisture. When moisture-laden air forms a storm, heavier, more intense precipitation is likely. When heavy storms release a lot of water quickly, the likelihood of flooding increases. If the ground is either very dry from periods of drought or very wet from periods of oversaturation, the risk of flooding also increases.

  • Background Information: Wildfire and Smoke

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    The risk of wildfire in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville is relatively low and likely to remain so in the coming decades, especially compared to other regions of the United States and the world. Small increases in exposure to wildfire risk will occur in the county. Of greater risk to our region is the impact on local air quality from wildfire smoke in other locations, as we experienced in June 2023 when Canadian wildfires blanketed much of the eastern half of the United States with intense smoke.

    New scientific research suggests that 60% of wildfire smoke’s impact on air quality is experienced outside the state where the fire is burning. Other research shows that wildfire smoke’s contribution to air pollution is increasing across the 48 contiguous states. In other words, the smoke from faraway wildfires is likely to impact our area as climate change intensifies.

  • Background Information: Pests and Disease

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    The increased prevalence of pests and diseases is a second-order, or indirect, climate hazard. This means that the changing climate does not cause more insects, fungi, or other disease vectors, but that the conditions brought about by climate change are more favorable for these pests. For example, some tree species in our region are in decline because they are stressed due to drought, increased temperatures, and other changing weather conditions. Trees that are stressed are more vulnerable to insects, fungus, and other disease. Additionally, pests that were traditionally limited or kept in check by colder winters are moving into our region as winters warm. Trees and plants are not the only organisms at risk – pathogens that impact humans and animals, such as ticks and mosquitos, will also spread.

Page last updated: 12 Dec 2023, 02:30 PM