North Carolina is on track to experience the most significant changes to its climate ever by the end of this century, according to a new report.
Scientists with the North Carolina Insitute of Climate Studies (NCICS), based at NC State University, presented the report to Gov. Roy Cooper’s Climate Change Interagency Council on Wednesday.
The report looked at two possible ranges of warming by the end of the century, and the effects that warming would have on North Carolina. The two models are called RCP4.5 (meaning 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit of warming) and RCP8.5 (4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit of warming).
Under both models, North Carolina would see hotter days and warmer overnight temperatures. The state would likely also experience stronger hurricanes, due to increased water vapor in the atmosphere and warmer ocean temperatures.
Along the North Carolina coastline near Wilmington, sea levels would rise between 1.2 feet and 3.3 feet by 2100. They would rise even more in the northeast part of the state, up to 3.9 feet in Duck, North Carolina. Scientists also projected flooding at high tide to become "nearly a daily occurence" by the year 2100. Flooding would become more common inland as well, as the state experiences a higher number of heavy rainfall events (defined as rain of more than 3 inches).
Mecklenburg County could experience between 20 and 35 more extreme heat days per year - days where highs reach above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That would be a six-fold increase from the state's recent average of seven extreme heat days per year. Counties north and northeast of Charlotte, along I-77 and I-85, would see up to twice as many days of extreme rainfall as they do now, leading to an increased risk of flooding.
The report is currently undergoing peer review, but NCICS does not expect its main findings to change before publication.
The presentation was part of a meeting of North Carolina's Climate Change Interagency Council, which Gov. Cooper created by executive order in 2018. The order set new goals to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions, and directs state agencies to develop policies that reduce their carbon footprint and encourage renewable energy in the state.