Four Decades of Increasingly Pleasant Weather in the United States: 1974-2013
39 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2014
Date Written: August 25, 2014
We hypothesize that changes in weather patterns in the United States over recent decades have combined to produce an important--and heretofore overlooked--phenomenon: daily weather has become more pleasant for a substantial majority of Americans since the climate change issue emerged in the public sphere. We investigate this hypothesis using daily weather data gathered from weather stations across the United States over the past four decades. We examine county-level data on how winter and summer weather conditions along with annual precipitation have changed over this period. We use these data to develop an index of weather pleasantness derived from previous research on how weather conditions affect population growth in the United States. We estimate that 84 percent of Americans currently live in counties that are experiencing more pleasant weather now than they did three decades ago. Spanning a range that includes much of the Mountain West, the Southwest, the South and the lower Midwest, the counties whose weather has improved the most are growing more rapidly and have younger populations than counties that have experienced poorer weather. Given previous research showing that the public relies on local weather to understand the problem of global warming, we anticipate that improvement in daily weather patterns may represent yet another challenge to raising Americans’ interest in and concern about the consequences of climate change.
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