Federal draft climate assessment bodes ill for Southwest

Less snow, longer droughts expected in coming decades

Projected temperature increases in the Southwest under varying greenhouse gas emission scenarios range between 2.5 and 9.5 degrees.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Southwest, already the warmest and most arid part of the country, is expected to get hotter and drier during the coming decades, a draft federal climate change report warns, describing how the region is already feeling the impacts of global warming.

The Draft Climate Assessment Report was released a few weeks ago for public comment. It outlines global warming impacts to various economic sectors like agriculture, transportation, agriculture and forestry, and also breaks down the information geographically.

The section on the Southwest explains that the period since 1950 has been hotter than any comparably long period in at least 600 years. The first decade of the 2000s was the warmest in the 110-year instrumental record, with temperatures almost 2 higher than historic averages, with fewer cold snaps and more heat waves.

Droughts will get longer and more intense, spurring competition between farmers, urban dwellers,for the region’s most precious resource, while the region’s populous coastal cities face rising sea levels, extreme high tides, and storm surges, threatening highways, bridges, power plants, and sewage treatment plants.

Impacts to the Southwest include:

  • Snowpack and streamflow amounts are projected to decline, decreasing water supply for cities, agriculture, and ecosystems.
  • The Southwest produces more than half the nation’s high-value specialty crops, which are irrigation-dependent and particularly vulnerable to extremes of moisture, cold, and heat. Reduced yields from increased temperatures and increasing competition for scarce water supplies will displace jobs in some rural communities.
  • Increased warming, due to climate change, and drought have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest. Fire models project more wildfire and increased risks to communities across extensive areas.
  • Flooding and erosion in coastal areas is already occurring and is damaging some areas of the California coast during storms and extreme high tides. Sea level rise is projected to increase, resulting in major damage as wind-driven waves ride upon higher seas and reach further inland.
  • Projected regional temperature increases, combined with the way cities amplify heat, will pose increased threats and costs to public health in Southwestern cities, which are home to more than 90 percent of the region’s population. Disruptions to urban electricity and water supplies will exacerbate these health problems.

The Southwest section of the report:



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