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Public Library of Science

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San Fransisco, CA, USA

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Abstract/ Summary

Better understanding of the changing relationship between human populations and climate is a global research priority. The 20th century in the contiguous United States offers a particularly well-documented example of human demographic expansion during a period of radical socioeconomic and environmental change. One would expect that as human society has been transformed by technology, we would become increasingly decoupled from climate and more dependent on social infrastructure. Here we use spatially-explicit models to evaluate climatic, socio-economic and biophysical correlates of demographic change in the contiguous United States between 1900 and 2000. Climate-correlated variation in population growth has caused the U.S. population to shift its realized climate niche from cool, seasonal climates to warm, aseasonal climates. As a result, the average annual temperature experienced by U.S. citizens between 1920 and 2000 has increased by more than 1.5°C and the temperature seasonality has decreased by 1.1°C during a century when climate change accounted for only a 0.24°C increase in average annual temperature and a 0.15°C decrease in temperature seasonality. Thus, despite advancing technology, climate-correlated demographics continue to be a major feature of contemporary U.S. society. Unfortunately, these demographic patterns are contributing to a substantial warming of the climate niche during a period of rapid environmental warming, making an already bad situation worse.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Samson, J., Berteaux, D., McGill, Brian, J., & Humphries, M. 2012. Demographic Amplification of Climate Change Experienced by the Contiguous United States Population during the 20th Century. PLOS One 10.1371/journal.pone.0045683, 8 pages.

Publisher Statement

© 2012 Samson et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045683


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.