Regional Climate Impacts

This page is updated periodically and aims to provide information for higher education on the current and expected climate for each region. Most of the information is taken from the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), which is a preferred source for signatories to use for more information. In the NCA, you can find highlights for each region as well as more in-depth climate, adaptation, mitigation and other information. Unless otherwise specified images are courtesy of the NCA (2018).


National Overview

Major Concerns

  • Climate change impacts already being felt across the country
  • Heavy downpours are increasing nationally
  • Frequent flooding along the U.S. coastline
  • US average temperature increased over the last century
  • The most recent decade was the warmest on record
  • Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s
  • Increases in wildfires across the country

Special Notes for the Nation

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Projected Changes in U.S. Annual Average Temperatures


Projected Relative Sea Level Change in the United States by 2100


Projected Change in Very Hot Days by 2100 in Phoenix, Arizona


National Climate Assessment Overview

National Climate Assessment Changing Climate Observations


Major Concerns:

  • Less distinct seasons affecting farming and tourism
  • Heatwaves and rising temperatures
    • Northeast region expected to pass 2°C over pre-industrial temperatures by 2035
  • Sea level rise, ocean acidification, and increasing coastal erosion
  • Worsening air quality and intense allergy seasons
  • Heavy precipitation and flooding

Special Notes for the Region:

  • Most densely populated region in the U.S.
    • Densely populated in coastal corridor 
  • Aging infrastructure
  • Congested transportation routes in urban areas
  • High density of cultural heritage sites
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Lengthening of the Freeze-Free Period


Ocean Heat Wave of 2012


Observed and Projected Impacts of Excess Heat on Emergency Room Visits in Rhode Island


National Climate Assessment Northeast Chapter


Major Concerns

  • Sea level rise and flooding
  • Extreme heat and humidity
  • Drought
  • Hurricanes
  • Heavy precipitation

Special Notes for the Region

  • More billion-dollar disasters than any other region
  • Fast-growing metropolitan areas
  • Vulnerable ports and coastal infrastructure
  • High ecological diversity
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Historical Changes in Hot Days and Warm Nights


Annual Number of High Tide Flooding Days


Projected Changes in Plant Hardiness Zones


National Climate Assessment Southeast Chapter

U.S. Caribbean

Major Concerns

  • Reduced average rainfall
    • Reduced freshwater resources
  • Sea level rise, increased coastal erosion, and flooding
  • Increase in intense storms and flooding
  • Heatwaves and rising temperatures
  • Ocean acidification and coral loss

Special Notes for the Region

  • Comprised of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Economy dominated by coastal zones
  • Isolated and dependent on imports
  • High reliance on surface water and rainfall
  • Major crops (ie coffee, mangoes) depend on specific ecological niche
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Observed and Projected Temperature Change for Puerto Rico


Observed and Projected Sea Level Rise


Maximum Extent of Drought


National Climate Assessment U.S. Caribbean Chapter


Major Concerns

  • High temperatures and humidity
  • Heavy rainfall and flooding
  • Shifting precipitation patterns
    • Late-growing-season moisture stress
  • Lower air and water quality
  • Warming winters

Special Notes for the Region

  • Major producer of food and animal feed
  • Major economic center, generating 18% of U.S. GDP
  • Changes in lake ice on the Great Lakes, impacting local lake habitat, navigation, erosion, and economy
  • Major coal consumer: 56% of electricity generated by burning coal
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The Changing Great Lakes


Projected Changes in Ozone-Related Premature Deaths


Days Above 100°F for Chicago


National Climate Assessment Midwest Chapter

Northern Great Plains

Major Concerns

  • Heatwaves and increasing temperatures
  • Extreme rainstorms with variability in timing
  • Flooding in the east (Red River Valley)
  • Drought in the center (Upper Missouri River Basin)
  • Shorter snow seasons, lower stream water levels in summer

Special Notes for the Region

  • Important agriculture and ranching region
  • Some large cities, but largely rural
  • Significant tribal lands and international borders
  • Prairie habitat
  • Far from the ocean (prone to climate variability)
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Projected Changes in Very Hot Days, Cool Days, and Heavy Precipitation


Hydrologic Changes Across the Northern Great Plains


Northern Great Plains Tribal Lands


National Climate Assessment Northern Great Plains Chapter

Southern Great Plains

Major Concerns

  • Increasing temperatures
    • More extreme heat events
    • Drying soils and wildfires
    • Increasing mortality from extreme heat
  • Sea level rise around the Gulf Coast has been twice the global average
  • Cycles of drought followed by flooding from excess rainfall
  • Increasing severity of extreme weather events (ie hurricanes, tornadoes)
  • Aging infrastructure

Special Notes for the Region

  • Produces 25% of U.S. energy
    • Petroleum and gas refineries vulnerable to storm surge
  • Contains many tribal lands, which are especially vulnerable to extreme weather and heat
  • Many rivers do not draw from melting snow packs and are vulnerable to changes in rainfall
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Monitoring Precipitation Across the Southern Great Plains


Projected Increase in Number of Days Above 100ºF


Texas Desalination Plants


National Climate Assessment Southern Great Plains Chapter


Major Concerns

  • Increasing temperatures
    • Wildfires
    • Heatwaves
    • Snowpack reduction
    • Threat to temperature-sensitive wildlife
  • Increasing ocean acidification and sea level rise
  • Increasing variability in precipitation and streamflow
  • Drought and water scarcity
  • Sudden flooding
  • Landslides

Special Notes for the Region

  • Heavy economic reliance on natural resources (ie recreation, fishing, agriculture, timber)
  • Important aquatic habitat for salmon, oysters (and other fresh and salt water species)
  • Many tribal and indigenous communities
  • Reliance on seasonal water flow patterns
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Natural Resource Industry Jobs and Sales Revenues


Multiple Climate Stressors Affect Vulnerable Infrastructure



Single-Source Water Systems in Washington


National Climate Assessment Northwest Chapter


Major Concerns

  • Water scarcity and quality
    • Drought
    • Groundwater depletion
  • Heatwaves and wildfires
  • Coastal sea level rise and storm surge
    • Increasing water temperatures
  • Loss of ecosystem integrity

Special Notes for the Region

  • Some of the fastest growing cities in the nation
    • Population growing 30% faster than the U.S. average
  • More than 90% of the regional population is urban
  • More than half of the U.S. high value specialty crops are grown in the Southwest
  • Intense use of agricultural irrigation
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Temperature Has Increased Across the Southwest


Severe Drought Reduces Water Supplies in the Southwest


Climate Change Has Increased Wildfire


National Climate Assessment Southwest Chapter


Major Concerns

  • Increasing temperatures 
  • Permafrost thawing and thinning arctic ice
    • Glacier melt and sea ice decline
  • Storm and infrastructure damage
  • Ocean temperatures and acidity
  • Coastal and river erosion

Special Notes for the Region

  • Strong tradition and economic importance of fishing, hunting
  • Heavily forested
  • Abundant natural resources
  • Arctic habitat
  • Many tribal and indigenous communities
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Observed and Projected Changes in Annual Average Temperature


Projected Changes in Arctic Ocean Acidity


Erosion Rates Along Alaska’s North Coast


National Climate Assessment Alaska Chapter

Hawai’i and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands

Major Concerns

  • Increasing temperatures
  • Extreme weather
    • Changing rainfall patterns and reduced water supply
    • Increasing drought and flooding
  • Sea level rise, erosion, and ocean acidification
  • Spread of invasive species
  • Coral bleaching and mortality

Special Notes for the Region

  • More than 2000 islands in millions of square miles of ocean
  • Both high elevation and low-lying islands
  • Limited land for production and potable water
  • Heavy reliance on tourism
  • Endemic species with limited adaptation potential
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Hawai‘i Annual Average Temperature Changes


Hawai‘i Rainfall Trends


Projected Onset of Annual Severe Coral Reef Bleaching


National Climate Assessment Hawai’i and Pacific Chapter


Additional Resources

National Climate Assessment

Additional Government pages:

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