Climate Change Impacts in Virginia: Examples

As seen on previous pages, climate change can resonate through the environment, making it possible to see signals in environmental and economic data. Click on the links below to see examples of potential changes in Virginia resources linked to climate change. In addition, examples highlight different methods of displaying temporal data

Changing Environmental Conditions

A number of environmental conditions can be affected by global climate change including air and water temperatures, precipitation patterns, methane and carbon dioxide production, and salinity distribution. Examining these factors for patterns can help predict future conditions.

Impacts to Species Distribution

Species typically have a range of natural conditions necessary for their successful growth and reproduction. Changes in natural conditions can affect their health and distribution, altering local food web structures, and creating or releasing competition between two species

Impacts to Species Event Timing

Many species use environmental cues to trigger life events (such as migration or reproduction). Problems occur when two different environmental cues are necessary, because climatic shifts can change the timing or location of one environmental cue differently from the other environmental cue. This leads to a mismatch in the timing event resulting in poor reproduction or lack of food at a critical life stage.

Human Impacts

As the top of the food chain, humans can be uniquely vulnerable to shifts in climate that impact food web production. These impacts can be reflected in economic data, such as crop production or fisheries landings. Humans also are vulnerable to a range of diseases whose distribution shifts as the distribution of their host species shifts.

Directly linking changes in species distributions or economic indicators can be tricky because it requires combining datasets which were collected separately and have unique characteristics. Every effort should be made to thoroughly explore all datasets before combining them into an analysis. For that reason, in the following examples we have made no effort to conduct a rigorous or statistical analysis of the potential climate change signals seen in the data. However, we are offering them as a series of examples of the types of climate signals that might be seen in Virginia and to encourage diverse avenues of exploration. In addition, we have posed several questions of potential interest in each example, some of which might be explored with existing Virginia data and some of which would require datasets that may not currently exist. We suggest that some of these datasets might be worth establishing to facilitate future climate change analyses.