IPCC Sixth Annual Climate Assessment Paints Dire Picture for Western U.S.

Seven visualizations of the climate future – to 2100

News Brief

On August 11, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth annual Assessment Report, and part of the online report includes interactive access to several important climate modelling projects and associated visualizations.

The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) began in 2008. The ongoing effort incorporates a wide variety of historical data, seasonal factors, and diverse models to provide a multi-model context for predicting future climate conditions across the planet.

Worth noting, based on the visualization below, the future western U.S. will be warmer but not less wet in the aggregate. The form of that precipitation will largely shift from snow to rain. Average atmospheric temperatures will be higher, and less water will be banked as snow.

What these changing climactic conditions mean for weather, wildfires, the availability of water, wildlife, and the health of existing ecosystems is yet to play out, but the following set of visualizations is somehow ominous given the observed changes in the climate to date and the accuracy of past modeling efforts.

Variables for the visualizations below are projected to the year 2100 and include – mean temperature, maximum temperature, number of days with maximum temperature above 35 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), number of days with maximum temperature above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), total precipitation, and snowfall.

The IPCC Assessment is a sprawling document not easily encapsulated. The Ally encourages visitors to give the report some time. The following visualizations are based on CMIP6, the sixth and latest iteration of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project.

The base graphics for the following images were created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and are licensed under Creative Commons 4.0. The following visualizations are for the western United States, which means all states west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, inclusive.

Mean Temperatures

Maximum Temperatures

Days Above 35 Celsius or 95 Fahrenheit

Days Above 40 Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit

Frost Days are the number of days when the minimum temperature is below 0 degree Celsius.

Total Precipitation


Top photo caption and credit: Smoke Stacks, 1942 – photo Alfred T. Palmer/Library of Congress


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