Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Study: Climate change has taken hold in the West

Helicopter dumps water on forest fire
(Jeffrey Allred, Deseret News)
Bug-infested forests, reduced flow in the Colorado River and less snowfall in the Rocky Mountains are signs that climate change has taken hold in the intermountain West, according to a multi-agency report, "Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services," which was peer-reviewed through the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report says climate change is manifesting itself in the summer, through droughts and heat waves. But it says climate change's biggest effects are in the winter, a "surprise revelation," Amy O'Donoghue of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City reports. Warmer winters are "enhancing pest outbreaks and accelerating the melting of snowpack each year, reducing the amount of water that's available later when needed," she reports. Forests are already adapting to climate change with longer growing seasons, but outbreaks of invasive beetles, caused by warmer winters, are causing massive tree die-offs, increasing forest-fire risk.

"I think the bottom line is that these impacts are not going to happen 50 or 100 years from now," National Wildlife Federation climate change director Bruce Stein told O'Donoghue. "Many of them are already here, and we are going to have to be rethinking what we do to protect our wildlife and how we build and protect our communities." (Read more)

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