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More Severe Weather Ahead

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The current floods in the Midwest provide a sobering backdrop to a new report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which predicts ever-increasing incidents of severe weather — including heat waves, hurricanes, droughts and downpours — as Earth's temperature increases.

The 162-page report focuses on how global warming has affected the climate of North America over the past half-century and outlines further changes we are likely to see in future decades. Given the fact that greenhouse gases are proving more difficult to control than expected, as reported in an in-depth Miller-McCunemagazine article this spring, this new study provides a disturbing look at a volatile future.

Among the predictions of the scientific team, which was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association:

• Abnormally hot days and nights, along with heat waves, are very likely to become more common. Cold nights are very likely to become less common.
• Sea ice is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in the Arctic Ocean during summer months in coming decades.
• Precipitation, on average, is likely to be less frequent but more intense.
• Droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in some regions.
• Hurricanes will likely have increased precipitation and wind.
• The strongest cold-season storms in the Atlantic and Pacific are likely to produce stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights.

Those who remain skeptical that climate change is occurring should note that, in North America, the past decade has seen fewer cold snaps than another other 10-year period on record (that is, since 1895).

As we reported in April, the American public seems far more concerned with immediate, close-to-home environmental risks than in global climate change. This suggests a failure on the part of both our scientific and political leaders to connect the dots — a necessary precursor to forging a consensus on a plan of action.