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November 3, 2009

Tomorrow's Climate Change... Today!

The NPR radio show Marketplace has a nice new feature on its website showing the extent of climate change since the 1960s and 70s. It's worth visiting -- there are fancy graphics and audio clips and everything. But it offers a nice regional breakdown of climate change just over the last 30 or so years:
Northeast
  • Average daily temperature 2 degrees higher, with more days above 90 degrees. Winter temperatures 4 degrees higher.
  • Longer growing season.
  • Increased periods of heavy precipitation -- in winter less as snow, more as rain.
  • Earlier breakup of winter ice on lakes and rivers.
  • Earlier spring snowmelt and breakup of winter ice on lakes and rivers, resulting in earlier peak river flows.
  • Rising sea level and sea surface temperatures.
Southeast
  • Average daily temperature about 2 degrees higher with the greatest increase in winter.
  • Days below freezing (32 degrees) reduced to four to seven per year.
  • Average fall precipitation 30% higher since 1901, with the exception of South Florida.
  • Moderate to severe droughts in spring and summer have increased 12% and 14%, respectively.
  • Destructive potential of hurricanes has increased since 1970, due to an increase in sea surface temperature.
Midwest
  • Increased average temperatures in recent decades, especially in winter.
  • Frost-free season has become longer by more than a week
  • Heavy downpours are twice as frequent as a century ago.
  • Summer and winter precipitation has been above average in the last three decades, compared to 1960s and '70s.
  • Two record-breaking floods within the past 15 years.
  • More frequent heat waves.
Great Plains
  • Average daily temperatures have increased roughly 1.5 degrees since the 1960s and '70s.
  • Cold days are less frequent, hot days more frequent.
  • Precipitation has increased over most of the area, especially in the north.
Northwest
  • Average daily temperatures have risen 1.5 to 4 degrees in the last century.
  • Spring snowpack is projected to be down as much as 60% in some mountain areas, 25% less in the Cascades.
  • Pine Beetle outbreak affecting region's timber.
  • Wild salmon populations are down 56% in their usual coastal waters, and more than 90% in the Columbia River system, due to lower streamflows from reduced snowpack.
Southwest
  • Average daily temperatures are 1.5 degrees hotter than in the 1960s and '70s.
  • Declining spring snowpack and Colorado River flows.
  • Beginning of water "trade-offs" pitting urban, agriculture and habitat needs against one another.
Again, most of those changes are only since the 60s and 70s -- we're just getting started. Unless, of course, we stop.

Photo by crowt59 used under a CC license

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