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Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says

Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says
Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is one of the most famous music festivals in the world and is also amongst the most profitable, grossing an impressive $114.6 million in 2017, which set a record for the first recurring festival franchise to earn over $100 million. Coachella, Stagecoach and the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament are attractions that have drawn millions to the Coachella Valley over the years, but scientists warn that this could change as extreme heat becomes a dangerous reality.

The Coachella Valley is a desert region in southern California with virtually zero annual rainfall and an annual average temperature of 22.8°C, which makes it a desirable destination for those seeking year-round warmth. While this region hosts world-renowned events and is unlikely to lose popularity anytime soon, a study warns that rapidly rising temperatures are threatening the thriving tourism industry.

The study was published in the journal Climatic Change and found that in the Coachella Valley, the number of days above 29.4°C between November and April will increase up to 150 per cent by 2100. The researchers say that weather and climate are important factors that tourists consider, so they divided their findings of future impacts to the region’s tourism industry into three categories: winter snowbird season, outdoor tourist attractions, and annual festivals.

“Although tourism is a significant economic driver [in the Coachella Valley], little is known about how global warming will affect tourism at these locations,” the study states. Tourism is the primary source of revenue for the Coachella Valley, which is why the study’s projections are particularly foreboding.

coachella wikimedia commons credit: Jason Persse
coachella wikimedia commons credit: Jason Persse

Sunset over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 21, 2012. Credit: Jason Persse/ Wikimedia Commons.

HOW HOT WILL IT GET?

The researchers used global climate models to predict future visitation rates by calculating the probability of extreme heat occurring during local events and the tourist season. The climate models projected future daily maximum temperatures for two different scenarios, one where society continues emitting carbon business-as-usual, and the other where carbon emissions are significantly mitigated and reduced.

Under the mitigation scenario, the daily maximum temperature in Indio, located 6 km from the site of the Coachella music festival, increased by 2.7°C from 31.4°C to 34.1°C at the end of the century. If emissions continue business-as-usual, the daily maximum temperature jumps by 4.1°C to 35.6°C.

Aerial shot of the Coachella Valley credit: Wikimedia Commons
Aerial shot of the Coachella Valley credit: Wikimedia Commons

An aerial shot of the Coachella Valley, California. Credit: Ilpo’s Sojourn/ Wikimedia Commons

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, sustained exposure to temperatures above 40.6°C with relatively low humidity will “likely lead to heat-related illness.” The researchers say that the number of daily maximum temperatures above 40.6°C will increase by 61 days in 2100 if emissions are not curbed.

TOO HOT FOR SNOWBIRDS

Winter tourism in the Coachella Valley is driven by the pleasant climate, which serves as an escape for many Americans