Study Shows San Antonio’s Climate Will Mirror Nuevo Laredo’s By 2080

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The international border at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas.

Linda Davidson / Washington Post via Getty Images

The international border at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas.

When today’s toddlers are approaching retirement age, San Antonio will have a climate akin to that of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a city 145 miles to the south, according to a climate comparison study published this week.

Their results indicate that San Antonio will become an overall hotter and drier place, experiencing more 100-plus-degree summer days, warmer winters, and lower annual rainfall than the city sees today.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University used 27 different climate models developed by research groups all over the world to compare the climates of 450 North American cities in 2080 to their closest counterparts in today’s climate.

Under a current climate change trajectory, the models predict that by 2080, much of the East Coast will be more like the South. Portland, Oregon, will have a climate similar to California’s Central Valley. Denver will have conditions akin to the Texas Panhandle.

For San Antonio, the best comparison is Nuevo Laredo, which has a much hotter and drier climate than San Antonio.

“The big motivation was to communicate these changes,” University of Maryland associate professor Matt Fitzpatrick said in a phone interview this week. “This might resonate with people as a way to translate these global forecasts that we hear a lot about in the news.”

Fitzpatrick said that climate reports and news coverage about them often focused on “descriptive statistics” that often reflect mean temperature changes that most people cannot contextualize.

As part of their paper, Fitzpatrick and his co-author created an interactive tool that allows users to examine southward shifts in climate city-by-city.

Typical summers in Nuevo Laredo are on average 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit hotter and 34 percent drier than in San Antonio, their report states. Winters there average 6.3 degrees warmer and are 54.8 percent drier than in San Antonio.

According to climate data, Laredo, the Texas city located directly across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, receives an average of 20.15 inches of rain per year, compared to San Antonio’s nearly 33 inches.

All of South Texas is known for its broiling-hot summers, but the number of triple-digit days is higher along the Mexican border than in San Antonio. Average high temperatures for July and August in Laredo are 99 and 100 degrees, respectively, compared to 95 degrees in San Antonio for both months.

Fitzpatrick said their work did not focus on the potential for changes in extreme weather, such as hurricanes. Instead, it relied on 12 “climate variables,” including the mean, minimum, and maximum temperature and total precipitation for each season.

“Just like we can measure the geographic distance between two cities in Texas, we just measured the distance between cities, but we’re doing that in a climate space instead of a geographic space,” he said.

These shifts in climate are already spurring changes in migration patterns of plants and animals across North America. As one of many examples, radar studies have shown that Mexican free-tailed bats at Bracken Cave north of San Antonio are arriving earlier than before.

Fran Hutchins, Bracken Cave Preserve Director, watches the bats fly away from Bracken Cave for the evening to feed.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Fran Hutchins, Bracken Cave Preserve director, watches bats fly from Bracken Cave to feed.

Fitzpatrick, who typically studies “biogeography,” or “where organisms live and why,” said that because humans have broken up natural migration corridors with cities, roads, and other breaks in the natural landscape, many creatures will have difficulty adapting.

“They can move somewhere they prefer, they can stay and tolerate or adapt, or they can go extinct,” he said. “Given the speed and magnitude of the changes we’re expecting and the fact that we’ve fragmented the landscape, it’s going to be a big problem for a lot of organisms.”

But he noted that while some warming due to human activity is inevitable at this point, it’s not too late to change course. For many of the cities he examined, a lower-emissions pathway would lead to much smaller shifts in climate.

“That is a real solution that can help mitigate many of these dramatic impacts,” he said.

The City of San Antonio and CPS Energy are grappling with these issues right now. A draft climate plan released last month calls for San Antonio to be carbon-neutral by 2050. That would mean no more coal and natural gas in CPS Energy’s portfolio, as well as a complete shift away from all gasoline and diesel vehicles on San Antonio roads, among other measures.

“While climate change is a global issue, the causes and effects are experienced at the local level,” City Chief Sustainability Officer Doug Melnick said in an email. “The strategies outlined in this plan will have multiple benefits to our community’s quality of life, economic competitiveness, and resilience.”

On Monday, CPS Energy will hold a public input session on the climate plan from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Villita Assembly Building at 401 Villita St. Participants must sign up to speak between 5 and 6 p.m.

The City will also hold a public meeting about the plan on Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the San Antonio Public Library at 600 Soledad St.

17 thoughts on “Study Shows San Antonio’s Climate Will Mirror Nuevo Laredo’s By 2080

  1. Good plan, how will goods like tomatoes, avocado or lettuce for example get into San Antonio? Will we need to walk and bike to Nuevo Laredo to visit family? No trains, buses or planes?

    How about the loss of jobs? Would my son be able to mow a lawn for summer money?

    The rest of the civilized world will not be dragged back 100 years because of San Antonio liberal politics. The lossers in this madness are we the people.

    • Miguel, knocking liberal politics while you are typing on a version of a computer designed by liberal thought is a bit ironic. Liberal politics and legislation likely will save all of us from the dangers of climate change. Like mowing your lawn with an electric mower (I made the switch and I am never going back to gas, I store the lawnmower upright in my garage – no fumes and starts with a push of a button, lighter and works better!). Maybe from a conservative perspective on global warming, the civilized world will be dragged back 100 years, but from the perspective from the liberal sciences, we are progressing forward 100 plus years. And as usual, you will enjoy the benefits of technology and reap the benefits of liberal progress. This is of course if you are not a Russian hoping for climate change – Russia I can only imagine wants us to deny climate change because it opens up more of their land (as the ice melts) to farming, livestock, water, oil resources, and consequently – more power.

      • You’ve clear drunk to much Liberal Juice. This climate plan is complete crap. These scientist can’t even predict the weather accurately for next week and they expect me to believe that they can predict the weather 60 years from now. Sorry liberals but I’m keeping my car keeping my gas mower and have 0 intention of following this climate plan. Btw I’m a millenial.

        • That liberal juice Keegan is just asking a few questions, knowing who is answering them and why, putting a fair amount of faith in why they are answering it, a simple knowledge of what is released when we burn, where it goes, how it is recaptured, simple societal calculations, being careful what I read and what I am told, Just like I listen to my Dr. (you know your Doctors are aversion of a scientist, I am sure you may listen to them). But you know Keegan, you have me convinced, you have a cool name so you must be right. The hell with the scientist! I should just listen to you! You are right, the weather man really screwed it up yesterday! Screw my doctors, bring me the bible!!!

      • So for some climate change is a good thing. Why fight it? I just do my best to ensure I have as large a carbon foot print as possible.

        As for high speed rail. That doesn’t seem to have worked out in California. Electric buses? Ask Albuquerque.

    • Miguel: You ask very good questions. There are a lot of uncertainty about how our economy will work if we take the steps necessary to roll back climate change. There are a lot of very challenging technologies we need to develop. But let me take a crack at answering your questions.

      How will we handle shipping food and other goods into the ever growing cities? Electric trucks are one option. Tesla already has a prototype and this looks like a pretty feasible technology.

      How will we travel? Electric cars with longer ranges is probably the answer for a trip from San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo. High speed trains are another option. A fast train would likely be faster than flying today.

      Jobs? Well, like I said, there’s a lot of very complicated stuff that needs to be designed. Once we’ve figured out how to build the electric trucks and high speed trains, somebody has to build them. Lots of them. Same goes for new wind turbines and solar farms. Addressing climate change is going to create a lot of new jobs.

      And, as Guillermo says, your son can mow the lawn with an electric mower. But that’s really a good point to end on. If we don’t address climate change, your son will definitely not be earning money mowing lawns. There’s no way we’d be wasting what little water we had available on watering lawns. And even if we do roll back climate change and get to keep our yards, it’s probably going to be a robot and not your son tending to them. His life will not be like yours. Changes will come. We have a choice of what we want those changes to be, but we need to start taking action now.

      • So you think little old impoverished SA is going to cause all of that? The country will not buy the program, so the only thing that will happen is that we will impoverish ourselves.

    • I wouldn’t worry about that stuff. What San Antonio does will not affect other communities. The city will be hollowed out as the price of electricity skyrockets and, for a lack of power, businesses and residents leave. The CoSA cannot keep others from driving their vehicles into town, so trucks will still bring food stuffs to the few stores that remain. There will be few lawns because the price of water will also rise because of lifting costs. There will, of course, be lots of abandoned houses where weeds will take over, but no one will to have those mowed.

  2. Let’s say, the climate changers are right and 100% accurate in their predictions, all of the US could sign on and it won’t make a difference in the climate models. If you can’t get China and third world developing countries to sign on and they can’t and won’t, we’ll still be Nuevo Laredo by 2080. And what are you going to do to mitigate against plane travel and mass immigration, to name just two additional impacts upon local climate? Economically CAAP weakens us and climate wise it will not make a difference.

  3. ” a lower emissions pathway”…Dedicated HOV travel lanes along the expressways to/from downtown should be experimented with. For the pilot, all it takes is paint, orange barriers (which we’re blessed with an abundance of) and a little advertising . It’s done in every major city. Free rides on VIA from the boundary’s of the city to town for a few months. Measure the impact.

  4. To anyone who still believes the Earth’s climate is not changing in the face of the plentiful evidence available on an almost daily basis, all I can say is it must be nice to be ignorant and blissful. It’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and end that debate. Unfortunately, because nothing’s been done to address this slow-motion train wreck for the past 30 years, when it was first identified and, at the time, recognized for the crisis that it is, we now have to not only attempt to slow the pace of change, but to prepare to live with those changes. Unlike action being undertaken by other national governments, cities in the US, including San Antonio, have recognized the need to develop their own plans to address the coming changes because of the total lack of national action by our President and/or Congress. And while the San Antonio plan will help reduce CO2 emissions, which may lessen the severity of the coming climate changes, it’s greatest strength, in my view, is in addressing ways to reduce the adverse effects of those changes to the city and its residents. Concerns over the economic impact of the plan are certainly valid, and will need to be addressed, but the urgency of getting the ball rolling can’t be overstated.

  5. Many of those climate change skeptics (understandably) have a preconceived notion that all of us who are actively looking to have a sustainable future and who recognize the damage already done – we’re also BLAMING industry for the fossil fuel usage that over the years have caused so much harm. I just read http://www.moralcaseforfossilfuels.com and I absolutely don’t disagree with any of that. But so? No one of note is calling that progress as EVIL or without value.

    The fact is that science gives a REASON for the dilemma we’re in as fossil fuel burning (tons of websites support, 1 is http://www.skepticalscience.com) and the consequences thereof, but TO TAKE THAT AS ‘FINGER POINTING’/BAD GUY vs GOOD GUY lacks understanding of the problem itself.

    Why is this so hard?

  6. Did any of the above mention the value of green space, trees, vegetation, etc. in relation to climate?

    San Antonio citizens have been wise enough to pass bonds since 2000 for the protection of our Aquifer as well as funds for our beautiful greenways.

  7. If I remember correctly, glaciers cut the Mississippi valley, the Great Lakes and are at present continuing to recede. Weather records with comprehensive data go back maybe 50 years. So the earth is million and millions of years old, how accurate are their projections? Models with limited accounting for anomalies. By the way, AOC says we will all be dead in twelve years, so what’s the worry?
    Irresponsible development has denuded our terrain. Just planting more trees would be far less expensive than any suggested scare tactics for political insanity.

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