It's no longer an abstract concept or something that's happening on a distant island or arctic village. If you live in the U.S., chances are you are or will be suffering the effects of climate change.
Earth's climate is unequivocally warming, evident from observations of increases in global air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels, an intergovernmental panel on climate change determined in 2007.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified climate hot spots around the world, places where the impacts of climate change are both pronounced and well documented.
The UCS's Climate Hot Map site is an interactive map that shows the greatest impacts of climate change, including threats to human life and health, cost of impacts such as damage to property and infrastructure, loss of productivity, mass migration and security threats, and coping costs.
Scientists project that unless emissions of heat-trapping gases are brought under control, the impacts of climate change are likely to increase.
Above, residents of a Houston suburb clean up after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Here are some examples, from the UCS's Climate Hot Map, of where climate change is hitting home in the U.S.
(Photo: michelmond / Shutterstock)
Heavy snow and rain
Heavy downpours and intense snowstormes now occur in Cleveland and other parts of the Midwest about twice as often as they did a century ago.The phenomenon called lake-effect snow makes Cleveland and other places along the southern and eastern shores of the Great Lakes among the snowiest in North America. Climate change has been contributing to an increase in lake-effect snow since 1950.
Threats to health and life
In 1995 a heat wave took the lives of more than 700 Chicagoans, and emergency room visits spiked by 3,300. Cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Milwaukee, and St. Louis are all projected to experience more damaging heat waves in the future.
Photo: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.
Columbia River, Ore.
Loss of food and water supply, ecosystem damage
Climate change is causing declines in snowpack and reduced summer water levels in the Pacific Northwest. In the Cascades, scientists project a reduction of as much as 40% in the amount of snow on April 1 by the 2040s, under a business-as-usual emissions path. These stresses -- on top of those from dams, logging, pollution, and overfishing -- imperil the future of salmon, a source of food and recreation and a symbol of the region. Populations of this iconic fish are already at historically low levels.
Above, tourists at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River look at salmon as they swim through the fish ladder. Photo: Bob Pool / Shutterstock
Health problems, impacts on economy and transportation
Summers in Dallas-Fort Worth are already long and scorching, and scientists project that average summer temperatures in the area are likely to increase 9-10° F by the end of this century -- with 150 to 165 days a year topping 90° F. Besides the health effects on people, air and ground transportation (including flight delays and cancellations) runways, roads, and train tracks are likely to buckle during longer, more frequent heat waves, raising repair and maintenance costs.
Photo: CaseyMartin / Shutterstock
Loss of wildlife and habitat
Global warming is undermining the habitat of the pika, a small relative of the rabbit that lives in rocky alpine areas in Nevada and other parts of the western U.S. Several pika populations have become locally extinct in recent decades as their habitat has disappeared. The animal is considered an indicator species for detecting ecological effects of climate change in mountainous regions.
Harm to ecosystem and tourism economy
Bleaching brought on by rising water temperatures has already caused substantial die-off of coral reefs off the Florida Keys. Climate change threatens the future of corals -- which provide habitat for fish and fascination for snorkelers and scuba divers -- in Florida and worldwide. Scientists expect the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands are at risk of losing their reefs. With snorkeling and scuba diving at risk, the future of tourism in the Florida Keys is uncertain.
The second-largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks lies in an area where permafrost (permanently frozen ground) is common. As permafrost thaws, it increases the risk of damage to both landscapes and public infrastructure -- including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, above. Permafrost degradation is projected to raise the cost of maintaining affected public infrastructure by 10-20% ($4 billion to $6 billion) by 2030, and another 10-12% ($5.6 billion to $7.6 billion) by 2080.
Glacier National Park, Mont.
Melting glaciers, threats to wildlife and economy
Global warming is shrinking the glaciers for which Montana's Glacier National Park is named. Climate change threatens the park's scenic beauty, wildlife, and economic value to the state. Of the 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park in 1850, only 25 remain. Eleven of the park's iconic named glaciers have melted away since 1966. The changes also threaten the park's wildlife. Because scenery and wildlife viewing are the park's main draws, these changes could have economic implications too.
Grand Forks, N.D.
Flooding, deaths, evacuations, property damage
In 1997, the Red River in Grand Forks, above, rose to record levels, killing 11 people, forcing more than 60,000 people to evacuate, and causing more than $5 billion in damage. It flooded again in 2009 -- nearly matching what had been deemed a 100-year flood just 12 years earlier. Spring rainfall in Grand Forks is projected to increase 45% or more by the end of this century.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Calif.
Loss of water supply, impact on agriculture and economy
California's Sierra Nevada mountains, above, provide natural storage for much the state's water supply, used for drinking, agriculture, and recreation. Global warming is already causing declining snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt. In coming decades, climate change is expected to put even more stress on California's ability to store and distribute water. By the 2020s, loss of snowpack in the Sierras and Colorado River basin is likely to threaten more than 40% of Southern California's water supply. California is projected to face critically dry years up to 50% more often, and decreases in water for crops and livestock of 40-50%.
Flooding, illness, property damage
Flood-related disasters have become yearly events in Indiana. Sewage systems overflow, homes flood, belongings are destroyed, and the risks of intestinal illnesses rise among people exposed to contaminated floodwater.
Ipswich River, Mass.
Loss of water supply, flooding, habitat loss
Climate change is compounding the pressure human development places on the Ipswich River in Massachusetts, a water source for nearly one-third of a million people and an important bird and fish habitat. In six years between 1998 and 2008, parts of the upper river ran dry.
Above, low tide at the dock at Ipswich River, in Littleneck, Mass. Photo: Shutterstock
Jefferson City, Mo.
Flooding, economic impacts, property damage, transportation disrupted
The capital of Missouri, on the bank of the Missouri river, has experienced catastrophic floods in recent years. The 1993 flood affected 500 miles of the Mississippi and Missouri river system, halting major east-west traffic from St. Louis to Kansas City, and as far north as Chicago -- disrupting one-quarter of all U.S. freight for about six weeks.
In a 2008 flood, the president declared all but five of Missouri's counties storm- or flood-related disaster zones, leading to $180 million in federal disaster assistance.
Lake Mead, Nev./Ariz.
Loss of water supply, economic impacts
The level of Lake Mead is dropping. The lake, created by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, is about 30 miles from Las Vegas. It supplies water to more than 30 million people, including the cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. As the annual flow of the Colorado continues to drop, the region may not have enough water to meet its urban, industrial, agricultural, energy, ecological, and recreational needs.
Lancaster County, Pa.
Loss of food supply, economic impacts
Heat stress depresses milk production in cows, and warming summer temperatures are increasing the intensity and frequency of heat stress in Lancaster County, Pa. -- the heart of the state's most productive agricultural region.
Photo: Breck P. Kent / Shutterstock
Lexington is already considered one of the worst U.S. cities for allergies. Scientists project that if we do nothing to curb carbon emissions, ragweed is likely to produce twice as much pollen as it does under current atmospheric conditions.
Mesita del Buey, N.M.
Rising temperatures are worsening the effects of drought in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. More than 90% of the centuries-old piñon pines around Mesita del Buey, N.M., died in a 2002-2003 drought. Above, Bandelier National Monument.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
Property and infrastructure damage, extreme snowstorms
A blizzard that dumped more than 17 inches of unusually heavy, wet snow on Minneapolis in December 2010 caused the roof of the Metrodome to collapse. The economic impact of winter storms has been rising rapidly, reflecting higher-intensity storms with higher winds, and larger storm systems that affect more states at one time. A new stadium opened in 2016 with a total cost of $1.129 billion, of which $498 million came from city and state funds.
Mississippi Delta, La.
Deaths, flooding, infrastructure damage, property loss, ecosystem loss
Sea-level rise associated with climate change -- combined with local sinking of the ground -- are destroying the wetlands of Louisiana's Mississippi Delta. Deprived of sediment from a river no longer allowed to flood naturally, the wetlands erode and sink, reducing the area's protection against storm surge and destroying habitat for plants and animals. In fact, Louisiana is washing away at a rate of a football field every hour. Because coastal wetlands help protect the coastline from storm surge, Louisiana's capacity to absorb the surge of hurricanes such as Katrina that devastated the region in 2005, has been weakened.
Above, residents clean up after flooding in Baton Rouge, in 2016.
Photo: Ken Durden / Shutterstock
Napa Valley, Calif.
Economic impacts, impacts on agriculture and food supply
The Napa Valley, which plays a key role in California's $60 billion wine industry, may become less suitable for growing premium wine grapes as the climate changes, and have a major impact on tourism in the region. High temperatures can cause premature ripening and reduce grape quality. Recent fires in the region killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes, and were the costliest fires in California history, with insurance claims of $9.4 billion, according to the Sacramento Bee.
New Bedford, Mass.
Loss of food supply and jobs
Rising ocean temperatures are pushing cod populations into colder waters, creating uncertainty for the local fishing industry and coastal communities dependent on it. The southern portion of Georges Bank has already seen a drop in cod abundance.
Above, a commercial fishing boat returns with the day's catch in Chatham, Mass. Photo: Shutterstock
New York City
Deaths, flooding, property loss, evacuations, economic impacts
New York City, a global hub of business, arts and culture, transportation, and education, is threatened by sea-level rise. Global sea-level rise is accelerating: from 1993 to 2003 the rate was 70% higher than the average rate for the 20th century. According to a New York City report, Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 caused 43 deaths, and caused $19 billion in damage. About 6,500 patients were evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes, nearly 90,000 buildings were in the inundation zone, 1.1 million New York City children were unable to attend school for a week, almost 2 million people were without power, and 11 million travelers a day were affected.
Above, flooding in Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: FashionStock.com / Shutterstock
Permafrost underlies much of Nome, Alaska. However, this layer has been thawing as the climate warms, damaging ecosystems and local infrastructure, with projected costs in the billions.
Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikipedia
As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase, scientists expect poison ivy to grow faster and become more toxic. Poison ivy causes an itchy rash in most people and it thrives in wooded areas like the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Deaths, health problems
A 2011 heatwave marked Oklahoma's hottest July since record keeping began in 1895. The frequency of extreme heat events in major U.S. cities is rising. As heat waves become more common, children and the elderly are particularly at risk for health complications and even death.
Prairie Pothole Region, S.D.
Economic impacts, flooding, loss of wildlife habitat
A hotter climate threatens to dry out the extensive wetlands of this region in the north-central U.S. and part of Canada. The Prairie Pothole Region is the breeding ground for 50-80% of waterfowl in North America. These wetlands are important to local communities as they help reduce flooding and bring in significant money from recreational use. Migratory bird hunters in the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota spend more than $100 million each year on hunting-related purchases.
Rocky Mountains, Colo./Wy.
Ecosystem damage, threats to property and infrastructure
Mountain pine beetles have killed millions of trees in Rocky Mountain National Park and other parts of the country. Since it was established in 1915, the park has never faced an outbreak of mountain pine beetle as large as the one starting around 2002. Some of the most widely visited ski resorts in Colorado have also suffered extensive beetle damage. The dead trees present a serious threat as they begin to fall, especially near communities and developed recreation areas.
Above, a Forest Service Entomologist searches for pine bark beetles burrowed in dead trees in California. Photo: Lance Cheung/USDA
The Great Lakes
Economic impacts on transportation, agriculture, industry and recreation
Global warming is increasing evaporation of the Great Lakes, which could have a profound impact on transportation, industry, agriculture, and recreation in the Midwest. The port of Rogers City, Mich., faces a projected drop of more than one foot in the water level of Lake Huron by the end of this century, if our heat-trapping emissions continue unabated.
Cargo ships lose capacity when water levels drop, likely increasing commercial shipping costs 13-29% in the next 30 years. Falling lake levels also harm beach and coastal ecosystems, expose toxic contaminants, and impair recreational boating.
Photo: ehrlif / Shutterstock
Ross Dam, Wa.
Loss of water supply and power
Declining snowpack and earlier peaking of spring runoff because of global warming threaten hydropower productivity and other uses of the water supply in the U.S. Northwest. Ross Dam, on the Skagit River in Washington's North Cascade Mountains, provides electricity to Seattle.
Extreme snowstorms, economic impacts
Snowfall in Syracuse has increased an average of 0.75 inch every year since 1915. Since Syracuse is the economic and educational hub of central New York state, increasing lake-effect snowfall and extreme weather can at times wreak havoc on transportation and commerce throughout the region.
Photo: Debra Millet / Shutterstock
Virgin Islands (U.S.)
Increased ocean acidification poses risks to the very initial stages of life of the already threatened elkhorn coral, a key reef builder in the Caribbean Sea that provides critical habitat for other reef organisms. The earth's oceans are now absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere, tipping the chemical balance of sea water toward acidic.
Above, Coral Bay on St. John's in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo: Shutterstock
Virginia Beach, Va.
Infrastructure and property damage, economic impacts
Rising sea level caused by global warming threatens Virginia Beach, a resort town and Virginia's largest city. Retreating shorelines can threaten oceanfront hotels, restaurants, and resorts. Low-lying areas are likely to be inundated more often, and some neighborhoods may end up permanently underwater.
Photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock
Wyoming County, N.Y.
Loss of food supply, economic impacts
Warming summer temperatures are increasing the intensity and frequency of heat stress in Wyoming County, N.Y., where farmers lead the state in milk production. Heat stress depresses milk production and birthing rates in cows.
Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock