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But It's a Dry Heat!

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
07 April 2008, 3:30 PM

Global warming, by definition, impacts the entire planet. But warming will likely have differing impacts on different areas. What does that mean for the climate of the American West?

A report prepared by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council last month boiled the answer down to three words: hotter and drier.

The report's cover sports a stark photo of the bathtub ring on Lake Powell, graphically illustrating how years of below-average precipitation have lowered water levels there. As of April 5, Powell's reservoir was at less than 45% of "full pool."

And while snowpack in the Colorado River basin may be above average this year, the long term prognosis for the reservoir is not good.

The contents of the RMCO and NRDC report are sobering, if preliminary. Based on data from the last five years, the report concludes that western US is warming 70% faster than the rest of the world. Now, some might question whether we can really predict warming trends for the long term based on five years of data. But even this non-scientist could see what the chart on page 3 of the report means – average temperatures in the western U.S have trended hotter over the last century.

And in a region thirsty for water and with population still dramatically growing, it means we have more problems than can be fixed with sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats.

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