The climate report looked at regional and state-level effects of global warming, compared with recent reports from the United Nations that lumped all of North America together. But this new assessment has been reviewed by more scientists, the National Academy of Science and 13 government agencies that provided input as well as public comment.

"Even though the nation's average temperature has risen by as much as 1.9 degrees since record keeping began in 1895, it's in the big, wild weather where the average person feels climate change the most," said co-author Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist. "Extreme weather like droughts, storms and heat waves hit us in the pocketbooks and can be seen by our own eyes."

Hayhoe says the new assessment tells us three very important things: First of all, it tells us that "climate change is a virtual reality.

"Climate change is a real problem, and the second thing this assessment confirms is that it is affecting us all; it’s hurting Americans in our country, people all across the world, and it is hurting us in the Great Plains and here in Texas. The last and most important part of the message is that not all is lost. The choices we are making now will determine the changes and the impacts we will live with in the future," she added.

Hayhoe said in many ways the Great Plains is a case in point. It is the agriculture heartland of the nation. In this region, life is all about agriculture, water and energy. She said the need to continue to grow abundant crops on the Plains resulted in overusing depleted aquifers, so farmers have become increasingly dependent on rainfall at a time when the climate is changing.

 

 

The assessment points to additional problems caused by drought. The number, size and intensity of wildfires continue to be alarming and in recent years fire fighting resources have been stretched and overtaxed. And climate change appears to be aiding unusual and unreliable tropical weather changes. Looking at a broader cycle, hurricanes have intensified, become more frequent and affected larger areas since the 1980s.

In addition, winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity and have shifted northward since the 1950s. In some areas, specifically the Northwest, heavy rains have increased causing serious flooding, and flooding has also increased in parts of the Midwest in recent years.

Also of concern, the report charges that climate change impacts include increased severity of heat waves and much drier conditions for most of the Southwest, including large parts of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. On all U.S. coastlines the sea level rise is contributing to increased flooding during high tides and storms. And in the West, conditions are getting hotter and drier quickly, and the snowpack is melting earlier in the year, extending wildfire seasons.