What White House climate change report says about Maryland infrastructure, Chesapeake Bay

ABC2 News meteorologist Mike Masco explains what the more recent report on climate change could mean for Maryland in the video above. Masco presents both sides of the global warming/ climate change debate. 

READ MORE | Obama sits down with meteorologists to push climate change report

Meanwhile, The Associated Press combed through the 800-page report to explain what climate scientists believe will happen in the near future in other parts of the country. And, just for fun, The Washington Post rounded up 30 different headlines regarding to the release of the report Tuesday. Read them here

Southwest faces even hotter, drier conditions

The Obama administration released the National Climate Assessment on Tuesday. Among the highlights in the Southwestern U.S., which include California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, are:

AGRICULTURE: Artichokes, olives and apricots might not be as visually pleasing as drought and extreme weather continue to take a toll on the crops grown primarily in California. A combination of longer frost-free seasons, less frequent blasts of cold air and more heat waves is projected to intensify, leading to faster ripening. The report says farmers might not be able to adapt quickly enough. Trees that bear nuts and fruit that need winter chills will have lower yields. Vegetables grown in the warmer seasons might not be viable under hotter conditions.

WATER SUPPLY: Southwestern cities know they must conserve water, but the report says that alone won't be enough to meet demand. Drier winters and early snowmelts are threatening the region's water supplies. The flow of water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers and the Great Basin were 5 percent to 37 percent lower between 2001 and 2010 than average flows in the 20th century. As water utilities across the Southwest try to prepare for the effects of climate change, key strategies for boosting supply will include expanding the treatment of wastewater and desalination.

WILDFIRES AND BARK BEETLES: The number of acres scorched by wildfires could double in the southern Rockies and increase by 74 percent in California due to climate change, driving up firefighting costs, threatening public health and damaging homes and the economy. The report highlights the 2003 Grand Prix Fire in Southern California, which caused $1.2 billion in damage. Drought and warmer temperatures also prompt outbreaks of bark beetles, making the landscape even more vulnerable. From 1984 to 2008, wildfires and bark beetles have combined to kill trees across 20 percent of Arizona and New Mexico forests.

HEAT WAVES: More than 90 percent of people living in the Southwest make their homes in cities, a figure higher than in any other region in the U.S. Rising temperatures leave people struggling to keep cool, resulting in skyrocketing demand for electricity and widespread power outages. California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona have seen some their warmest summer months on record in recent years. Consecutive days of scorching heat also can be deadly, particularly among the elderly and people illegally crossing the border from Mexico. The nation's highest rates of heat-related deaths are in Arizona.

Hawaii 

HONOLULU (AP) -- A federal report released Tuesday says Hawaii and other U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands are at risk of climate changes that will affect nearly every aspect of life.

Here are some key findings for Hawaii and the Pacific from the National Climate Assessment:

Global warming will likely stress Hawaii's fresh water supplies. East-West Center Research Fellow Victoria Keener says rising sea levels are expected to push salt water into aquifers that store the state's drinking water. The report says freshwater supplies that are already constrained will become even more limited on many islands.

Warmer oceans and acidification will strongly affect coral reef fish. Rising ocean temperatures are leading to more coral bleaching and disease outbreaks in reefs.

Animals and plants native to Pacific islands, especially those at higher elevations, will be at a higher risk of extinction because of increased temperatures and reduced rainfall

 

Climate report predicts more extremes in Midwest

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A report by the National Climate Assessment says a warming planet will worsen a series of weather trends already showing up across the Midwest. Look for more extremes: searing heat, late-spring freezes, floods and droughts across a region that includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.

FARMS AND FORESTS: The growing season, already two weeks longer than in 1950, will continue lengthening. But the gains will be offset by smaller yields for some crops, including corn. Soybean yields will improve for a while, but the gains will eventually be offset by heat stress. Sensitive fruits such as tart cherries in Michigan and Wisconsin will be increasingly vulnerable to early budding followed

by killing freezes as in 2012, when the crop was devastated. Wetter springs could delay planting.

Wetlands, prairies and other ecosystems will change profoundly, none more so than the northern forests. Familiar tree species such as paper birch, quaking aspen, balsam fir and black spruce will probably migrate even farther north, giving way to oak and pine varieties now common farther south.

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: The report acknowledges it's harder to project long-range changes in precipitation than temperature. But the Midwest generally has gotten wetter in the past century, mostly because of increasingly intense storms, and that's likely to continue in the next century. Just how much will depend on how successfully people cut back on carbon emissions.

But weather patterns may become increasing erratic -- wet in some parts of the region, dry in others. Snowfall may decline in much of the Midwest but increase in areas that get lake-effect snow. More flooding is likely, which intensifies sewer overflows, soil erosion and water pollution from runoff.

SUMMER IN THE CITY: Heat and humidity will raise the misery index in cities, with one study predicting up to 2,217 additional heat-related deaths per year in Chicago toward the end of the 21st century, although cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the number significantly. Higher temperatures should lengthen the pollen season and worsen the effects of degraded air quality.

THE GREAT LAKES: More than 90 percent of the Great Lakes' surface froze this winter, but don't be fooled. Ice cover has retreated steadily for decades, and the trend will probably continue, despite the occasional blip. Expect warmer surface waters and more nuisance algae blobs that harm fish and water quality. Reduced ice cover could lengthen the cargo shipping season, although the benefit could be offset if water levels decline. The effect of climate change on water levels is uncertain.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: The Midwest is well-positioned to soften the blow of climate change. Its energy-intensive economy cranks out greenhouse gases at a rate 20 percent above the national average, primarily because of heavy reliance on coal. Greater reliance on natural gas is a step in the right direction, the report says. In some parts of the region, solar power's potential matches that of Florida. In cloudier states, there is great opportunity to expand use of wind, biodiesel and ethanol.

 

Climate assessment warns of dire effects in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Alaska has been referred to as ground zero for climate change because of its proximity to a vulnerable polar region where effects are accelerated. A report by the National Climate Assessment lists concerns because of disappearing sea ice, glacier melt, permafrost thawing, changes in ocean temperature and chemistry, and strong effects on Alaska Native communities:

Alaska has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the United States, with a statewide average annual air temperature increasing by 3 degrees and average winter temperature by 6 degrees. Average annual temperatures are projected to rise 2 to 4 degrees more by 2050. If global emissions continue to increase, temperatures this century are projected to increase by 10 to 12 degrees in the north, 8 to 10 degrees in interior Alaska and 6 to 8 degrees elsewhere.

Arctic sea ice has declined, with only about half as much present in late summer as was recorded when satellite records began in 1979. Less ice means dark water absorbs more heat, leading to more warming. An open Arctic Ocean makes the region more accessible for marine traffic and oil drilling but increases risks of spills and eliminates habitat for polar bears, walrus and ice-dependent seals. Without protective ice edge along shorelines, coastal communities are vulnerable to erosion from fierce ocean storms.

Rapid ice loss from Alaska and British Columbia glaciers, perhaps 20 to 30 percent of what is melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet, contributes to increased ocean levels. Glacier water pouring into the ocean is an important source of organic carbon and other minerals that contribute to high coastal productivity and changes could alter Alaska's rich fisheries.

Eighty percent of Alaska is underlain by permafrost, or frozen ground, which can sink if thawed. Sinking ground is projected to add $3.6 billion to $6.1 billion to costs of maintaining public buildings, pipelines, roads, and airports over the next 20 years. Permafrost thaw in rural Alaska will disrupt water supplies and sewage systems. Lakes in the southern two-thirds of Alaska have shrunk in the last 50 years because of permafrost thaw and evaporation from higher temperatures. Wetlands drying and warmer summers have led to more large fires in the last 10 years than in any decade since record-keeping began in the 1940s. Alaska provides breeding habitat for millions or migratory birds and continued drying of Alaska wetlands could affect waterfowl management nationally. Thawing

of permafrost increases the release of carbon dioxide and methane through increased decomposition, adding to the warming problem.

Ocean waters have become 30 percent more acidic through absorption of carbon dioxide and acidity could reduce the capacity of key plankton and shelled marine animals to form and maintain shells, altering the ocean food chain. Rising ocean temperatures and declining sea ice will affect the range and abundance of fish, including commercially important species such as pollock.

Thinning ice, melting permafrost, shifts in species range and coastal erosion already affects Alaska's northern indigenous people who depend on subsistence resources for survival and maintaining their culture.

 

Climate change increasing risks in Northwest

SEATTLE (AP) -- Global warming is already altering Northwest forest landscapes, increasing wildfire risks and threatening coastal communities, according to a new federal scientific report released Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment provides a detailed look at the regional and state-level effects of climate change. It lists key concerns for Washington, Idaho and Oregon:

WATER RELATED CHALLENGES: Regional warming has been linked to changes in the amount and the timing of snowmelt, which provides a bulk of the region's water supply, the report says. Declining snowpack and changes in the snowmelt timing are already happening and will continue, reducing the supply of water for farming, communities and fish. Without changes, annual hydropower production is much more likely to decrease than to increase in the Columbia River basin; such hydropower changes could cost millions of dollars a year.

COASTAL VULNERABILITY: Rising sea level, erosion and ocean acidification pose a major threat to infrastructure, ecosystems and economic activity, the report says. As sea levels continue to rise, more than 140,000 acres of coastal lands in Washington and Oregon that lie within 3.3 feet in elevation of high tide will be inundated more frequently. The rising acidity of the ocean also threatens oysters and other marine food web, such as Pacific salmon, while increasing coastal water temperatures and changing conditions may alter how well certain marine species survive.

IMPACTS ON FOREST:  Climate change will alter Northwest forests by increasing wildfire risk and insect and tree disease outbreaks, and by forcing long-term shifts in forest types and species, the report says. Those impacts are already causing widespread tree die-offs and are certain to cause more forest die-offs by 2040. Though wildfires are a natural part of the Northwest, warmer and drier conditions have helped boost the number and extent of wildfires in U.S. Western forests since 1970s, and that trend is expected to continue. Higher temperatures and outbreaks of mountain pine beetles, for example, area increasing pine tree die-offs in drier forests.

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