Report from U.S. Global Change Research Program indicates climate change is altering the water cycle, affecting availability and precipitation patterns
The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a 196-page report June 16, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” the most comprehensive report to date on national climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration led the study, and scientists representing 13 U.S. government agencies collaborated.
The study focuses on effects by region and details how the different sectors will be affected, including the water and energy sectors.
“Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal,” the executive summary begins.
Addressing water resources, the report states: “Climate change has already altered, and will continue to alter, the water cycle, affecting where, when, and how much water is available for all uses.”
It also predicts that as precipitation patterns change, floods and droughts will become more common and more intense.
Precipitation and runoff are expected to increase in the Northeast and Midwest in winter and spring, according to the report, and decrease in the West and Southwest in spring and summer.
The changing climate is also expected to affect surface water quality and groundwater quantity, and place additional strain on water systems.
The report warns: “the past century is no longer a reasonable guide to the future for water management.”
Rising sea levels and storm surge mean a greater risk of erosion and flooding along U.S. coastal areas, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands and parts of Alaska, according to the report.
According to University of Illinois Professor Don Wuebbles, a report contributor, predicted average annual temperatures are expected to increase by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the next few decades and could increase as much as 7 to 10 degrees by the end of the century.
For more information and to view the report, visit http://globalchange.gov/.