Changes east to west: Breaking down the climate report by region

Story highlights

The National Climate Assessment includes regional reports

Themes include infrastructure risks from rising oceans, to changing energy needs

Forecasts are included for six U.S. regions

CNN  — 

A number of themes emerge from the regional reports included in the National Climate Assessment – things like risks to infrastructure due to rising oceans both benefits and harm to agricultural production because of changing temperature, and new realities for cooling and heating costs.

Find your geographic region below and see how these issues specifically affect where you live, according to the report.

NORTHWEST

If you live in the Northwest, you can appreciate how vital the snow accumulation in the mountains is. It melts in spring to provide water for hydropower plants and irrigation for crops. But as seasonal water patterns change, caused in part by changes in snowmelt, the region’s diverse ecology and geography can face challenges.

The impacts of climate change will be strongly felt along the coast – an area important for the region’s economy. People’s livelihoods, recreational areas and infrastructure could be affected by rising sea levels. At the same time, wildfires are expected to increase.

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Examples from report:

– “Since around 1950, area-averaged snowpack on April 1 in the Cascade Mountains decreased about 20%, spring snowmelt occurred 0 to 30 days earlier depending on location, late winter/early spring streamflow increases ranged from 0% to greater than 20% as a fraction of annual flow, and summer flow decreased 0% to 15% as a fraction of annual flow, with exceptions in smaller areas and shorter time periods.”

– As sea levels rise, coastal areas of Washington and Oregon will flood more often. Beaches and habitats will probably decline in these areas.

– “Climate change will alter Northwest forests by increasing wildfire risk and insect and tree disease outbreaks, and by forcing longer-term shifts in forest types and species.”

– Wildfires are a natural part of the forest ecosystem in the Northwest, but warmer and drier conditions have increased the number and extent of such fires.

– “Projected warming will reduce the availability of irrigation water in snowmelt-fed basins and increase the probability of heat stress to field crops and tree fruit.”

– In the short term, some crops will benefit from a longer growing season, but the long-term consequences are uncertain.

SOUTHWEST

Those in the Southwest, especially in California, have already seen what changes in sea levels and temperature can do. Wildfires have ravaged some communities, and there has been damage along the coast due to waves encroaching further and further inland. Residents in this region count on a reliable supply of water. Imagine if that supply becomes less reliable as snowpack and streamflow amounts decrease?

Examples from the report:

– “Over the past 50 years across most of the Southwest, there has been less late-winter precipitation falling as snow, earlier snowmelt, and earlier arrival of most of the year’s streamflow.”

– Between 1970 and 2003, warmer and drier conditions increased the burned area in the western U.S. mid-elevation conifer forests by 650%.

– The sea level along the California coast has risen anywhere between 6.7 to 7.9 inches over the past 100 years.

–“If adaptive action is not taken, coastal highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure (such as the San Francisco and Oakland airports) are at increased risk of flooding with a 16-inch rise in sea level in the next 50 years.”

– “The effects of heat stress are greatest during heat waves lasting several days or more, and heat waves are projected to increase in frequency, duration, and intensity,,,,, become more humid, and cause a greater number of deaths.”

GREAT PLAINS

A large chunk of the middle United States, from Texas to Montana and the Dakotas, falls into this category in the report. What do Texans and Montanans have in common when it comes to climate? Well, the entire region will see increased demand for water and energy, and temperatures rise. Changes in how much you have to cool or warm your house has large impacts on the efficiency of energy use.

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Climate change doesn’t have just negative effects. For example, increased rainfall in the Northern Plains could increase agricultural productivity. But in the Central and Southern Plains, declines in rainfall means crop yields will be reduced.

Examples from report:

– In the Northern Plains, warmer winters mean that there may be a reduction in heating demand, but it might be outweighed by greater demand for air conditioning during warmer summers.