Climate Change is Taking Hold in the West

Climate Change is Taking Hold in the West

The latest U.S. winter outlook spells trouble for dry California and Hawaii. While the nation’s two largest cities may have a chance at weather-permitting rain over the next few days, the remainder of the West and the entire South and Southwest are under siege in the new year’s early days.

“The good news is the pattern is much better developed and better understood now than when the climate outlook was revised just earlier this year,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State in University Park, Pa.

When viewed broadly, climate change is taking hold everywhere, Mann said.

“Our model runs suggest that by the second week there, precipitation totals will be down in the West, up in the Pacific and elsewhere,” said Mann, who oversees the global climate models that have dominated public opinion and political discourse since their inception in the 1980s.

“The implication is that, for the most part, we have got three or so storms here that have the potential for some precipitation in the next couple days,” Mann said. “But our model runs suggest that the precipitation potential is very, very small, even for these storms.”

Still, the forecast is dire. Most models show that as the world warms, the frequency of storms, the severity of the storms, their intensity and duration will all increase.

The latest U.S. winter outlook for the Western Hemisphere spells trouble for dry California and Hawaii.

In fact, the outlook for all of the West and most of the South and Southwest is in jeopardy.

A majority of this winter’s major winter storms are expected to occur in parts of the U.S. and Canada, where there’s a large concentration of trees and other vegetation needed to sustain the storms that produce precipitation. As a result, much of the Western region is expected to have a dry year, Mann said.

“However, it’s more likely than not that there will be some precipitation over the next couple of days,” said Mann, who also is the director of U.S. Global Change Research Program, the nation’s leading research center on the role of global climate change on the nation’s major weather and climate issues. “It’s still anybody’s guess as to how much there could be, but it is probably unlikely for the West.”

Mann’s model

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