Bad news for the West in a new international climate change report – The Deseret News

West Drought Monitor map August 3, 2021.

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

A blistering international report on the global effects of climate change says action is needed now to cut emissions and chart a new path for humanity.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents nearly 200 member nations, made clear the planet is warming at an even faster rate than scientists previously thought and those warming trends are causing chaos in every corner of the world.

Utah’s Salt City Lake International Airport, as an example, experienced the warmest July on record since records first started being kept in 1874, and the state, like the entire West, is in the grip of a protracted drought.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres described the report released Monday as “a code red for humanity.”

One of the U.S.-based authors of the report, Kim Cobb, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the report’s findings are dire.

“There’s really one key message that emerges from this report: We are out of time. And this report really provides compelling, scientific linkages between the headlines that we see today and what we know about the physics of the climate system and how it’s being impacted by rising greenhouse gases.”

Some key takeaways include:

  • Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
  • Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.
  • For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities.
  • Logan Mitchell, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Utah, echoed Cobb’s concerns.

    “The thing that really strikes me is I thought that many of these climate impacts were going to hit us in a few decades in 2040 or 2050, but we are seeing them today with the wildfires, the smoke, these extreme heat events.”

    Jessica Tierney, associate professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona and one of the authors of the report, noted the widespread impacts in the West.

    “So we keep hearing more and more in the news about these extreme events, and the takeaway message from this new report is that these events are just going to occur more and more often as global temperatures rise. And they may get more and more intense. And so in the western U.S., for example, we need to think hard about issues like water conservation and water storage in order to sort of weather through these increasingly extreme events.”

    Credit: Colorado Water

    Tierney went on to add that snowpack in the western United States is almost certain to decline in the future.

    “And that has implications for water availability, because a lot of the stream flow in the Western United States — for example, the Colorado River — depends on snow. So we have increased confidence that we’re going to see less flow through our river systems in the western U.S., which means that we’re going to be even more prone to drought. And in fact, if emissions continue, then there is a very good chance that we’re going to see a level of drought and aridity that we haven’t seen in at least a thousand years.”

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