Climate | Changes Specific to U.S.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released over the past six months three parts of their working study reports. High on their priorities were efforts to mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change. Here are some details by Weather Underground meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters

Peterson et al. 2013

On May 6, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued their National Climate Assessment for the United States. The report is issued every four years. Work by 300 U.S. scientists examined climate change in the U.S. A 60-member committee oversaw and compiled the report to the nation.

What makes this report significant is the focus on impacts of climate change on certain regions of the country and on specific types of impacts being observed now. These impacts have growing economic importance on most segments of our society.

One example is indicated by this graphic from the report highlighting changes in precipitation from 1991-2012 compared to the base period of 1901-1960. The midwest and the northeast show very significant increases in the dark green shades. The southwest and southeast show decreases.

The full report is available online. The Jeff Masters blog summary is available here. My notes on the key messages from the overview follow.

Key Messages in the Report

  • Observations show the U.S. climate changed over the last 50 years due to human activities.
  • Change is projected to increase depending on the gases trapped and how Earth responds.
  • U.S. avg. temperature increased 1.3 – 1.9°F since 1895 with most of that since 1970.
  • The frost free growing season has increased since the 1980s. Largest increases are in the west.
  • Most areas has seen increased precipitation since 1900 with the most in the midwest and northeast.
  • Heavy downpours are on the increase nationwide with the most in the midwest and northeast.
  • Heat waves and drought have increased in number and intensity. Cold waves are likely to decrease.
  • Hurricane numbers, intensity, and rainfall are expected to increase due to the warming climate.
  • Winter storms increased in number and strength. Tornado and severe storm events need study.
  • Sea level rose 8″ since the 1880s. It is likely to rise another 1-4 feet by 2100 impacting coastal cities.
  • Winter ice on the Great Lakes has decreased over time. Polar ice melting will raise sea levels.
  • Marine ecosystems face damage by more acidic water due to the higher levels of CO2 absorbed.

These messages do not paint a pretty picture. What the report emphasizes is that climate change is not something that might happen in the future. We cannot ignore it and hope it won’t happen. It isn’t something that is an annoyance and maybe someone else will take care of it.

Climate change has been happening. It is happening now in the U.S. and worldwide. It will continue. It is up to each of us to be aware of it. We all have a role to play, however large or small, in reducing the negative impacts we have for the immediate and distant future. This is our home. It will be passed to our children and grandchildren. We should take better care of it.


24 thoughts on “Climate | Changes Specific to U.S.

    • Thanks. If you have time to explore the full report, there are many pages and charts of supportive findings.

      We need to be acting very differently worldwide.

    • It has been reported on in many news stories. Some have been good and comprehensive. If readers want to know, they have many places they can look.

  1. It interests me that not everyone I talk to even believes that humans are impacting the earth in any significant way. I so appreciate you boiling down all this data and making it easier to swallow and share with others.

    • If you need more ammo, read Jeff Masters’ piece. Then, try the overview link. Last resort is the full PDF download.

      Thanks for your comments.

  2. I don’t know if there is something unique about this report, but I saw Republican senator on T.V. this morning advocating for change in order to combat climate change. Clearly, people are coming around to the idea that this isn’t some government conspiracy. I’ve certainly felt like the climate has changed in the Midwest, even if I just compare now to what I experienced 10 years ago. The numbers don’t lie.

    • It is clear our weather and climate are, and will be, changing. What many don’t further realize is the impact it will have on food production. For some areas, like the midwest and CA, it will probably be more challenging to produce as much as before. Here is an excellent analysis from Grist.

      Thanks for your comments, TK.

  3. As of 2012, according to Wikipedia, the United States led the world in energy consumption per capita, and that is mostly fossil fuels. The next closest nation, at 27% less, is Russia. That ought to be reason enough for us to take the lead in ameliorating this problem, but the GOP is in denial of the facts. (It is too late to prevent the problems, of course – the evening news is full of it.)

    Voting has always been important, but the climate issue makes it more so. This is a matter of life and death, not merely living quality. From this November’s election, with control of the Senate up for grabs, the butterfly effect will echo forward through the generations, one way or the other. The difference is stark.

    • The denial of facts is astounding. As I mentioned to TK in another comment, weather and climate will be affected. Many think of that as a matter of discomfort and inconvenience. But, it goes much further. Here in the midwest and in CA, food breadbaskets, production will not keep up with the pace of demand. In some areas it will be decreasing. Here is a good article on the food issue from the web site Grist.

      Thanks for you comments, Jim.

      • That’s a good science link, Jim. The average citizen, I’m sure, takes for granted that grocery store shelves will never go bare, but clearly that can happen. But by the time it happens, it will be too late. The science is clear.

  4. None of this is surprising. For many years i wasn’t certain..a highly respected and highly intelligent person I knew caused me to question the validity of the climate change theory…until I watch, An inconvenient Truth. That broke it down for me in a way that I could understand.

    • Once the evidence is clearly laid out it is a compelling story. It is a sad story, too. If you ever get the chance to see Chasing Ice, be certain to watch it. It brought tears to my eyes for the beauty and the sad thing we are doing to our ice worlds. Here is a link to the site to describe it more.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

  5. Some months ago I came across a fact that I’d never considered and that I expect most people have a misconception about: only ice that starts out on land can increase the level of the sea after it melts; ice that’s already in the sea will not raise the level of the water after it melts. The explanation is that as water freezes it expands (hello, broken pipes that aren’t well insulated); conversely, when ice melts, the resulting water ends up having a smaller volume than it did when it was ice. Of course there’s a lot of continental sheet ice that can melt and raise the levels of the oceans into which the runoff finds its way.

    • You are correct about that. The melting of the Arctic ice won’t have a large effect on sea level. It will have other negative effects. Melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice will cause large rises.

      Good point, Steve.

  6. More to Steve’s point, this is from <a href=""a science fact sheet (emphasis added):

    What is an ice sheet?

    swiss camp in greenland
    Together, the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth. Credit: NSIDC
    An ice sheet is a mass of glacial land ice extending more than 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles). The two ice sheets on Earth today cover most of Greenland and Antarctica. During the last ice age, ice sheets also covered much of North America and Scandinavia.

    Together, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth. The Antarctic Ice Sheet extends almost 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), roughly the area of the contiguous United States and Mexico combined. The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains 30 million cubic kilometers (7.2 million cubic miles) of ice. The Greenland Ice Sheet extends about 1.7 million square kilometers (656,000 square miles), covering most of the island of Greenland, three times the size of Texas.

    • That was interesting. They spoke of not fighting the water. Don’t build walls against it. I live an hour from the Mississippi River. All along the river, levees have been built to contain it and try to force it to stay within a border. It always finds a way to get through or around. With the anticipated heavier precipitation in the future, this will become a worsening problem.

      Good Day… 🙂

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