The Two-Way
11:33 am
Wed June 13, 2012

New Research: U.S. Is Warming, But Not Uniformly

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 3:09 pm

New analysis (pdf) of climate data finds that since 1912, the United States has warmed 1.3 degrees. But that warming is concentrated in certain states, some of which have "warmed 60 times faster than the 10 slowest-warming states."

All of that is according to Climate Central, a research and journalism non-profit that seeks to inform the public about climate and energy. The center looked at data from the National Climatic Data Center's U.S. Historical Climatology Network.

The scientists found that Arizona was the fastest warming state and that much of the warming was concentrated in Southwest and upper Midwest. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Mexico, Utah, Maine, Texas and Massachusetts round out the top 10.

Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia didn't warm at all during the last century.

"The Southwest and North Central and Northeastern states are clearly warming faster than the rest of the country," report author Claudia Tebaldi said in a statement. "As warming continues, future droughts could be hotter and more severe, seasons will be altered, and the risk of wildfires will increase significantly, making summers like 2011 increasingly common."

In its press release, the center gives a this broad overview of what they found:

"... Starting in 1970, things changed. The pace of warming accelerated to three times the rate of the century average, and every state showed a warming trend. The top 10 fastest states warmed at an average 0.6 degrees F per decade since 1970, and 17 states warmed faster than a half a degree F per decade since that time.

"This strong warming trend coincided with the time when the effect of greenhouse gas pollution started to overwhelm the other natural and human influences on climate at the global and continental scales."

As Mark pointed out earlier, a separate study from Berkeley predicts that the western United States will see more frequent fires in the next 30 years. The authors of that study are scheduled to be on All Things Considered this afternoon. We'll listen to the conversation and update this post.

Update at 5:04 p.m. ET. Coexisting With Fire:

All Things Considered's Audie Cornish spoke to Max Moritz, who said over the next 30 years, his models predict that about half the planet will see "big disruptions" mostly in the form of increased fires.

Much of the western U.S. will see higher than average activity. So much so, said Moritz, that we have to change the way we think about wild fires.

"Instead of fighting fire, we have to learn to live with it and coexist," said Moritz.

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