When it comes to where you choose to live, be very careful what you wish for.
That river-side bargain, bay view dream home or desert adobe could, along with you, become a victim of climate change.
Just as inundated Midwestern communities along the Mississippi River were feeling the pain of flood plain living, a U.S. climate change study said they and others can expect more of the same.
Buy a home in the wrong location and, more and more often, it could be inundated, a real sweat box or not sufficient shelter from a perfect storm.
That's according to findings in a new report by U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research.
The report "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate", the first extensive federal report that focuses on North America alone, offers a bleaker picture for the nation than earlier reports that focused on the global impact of climate change.
Global warming, an increase in the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is on the rise, most scientists agree. When temperatures rise so do oceans and the incidents of drought and other severe weather conditions.
The study says global warming of the past 50 years has been largely caused by human activity that increases heat-trapping gasses. Activities include the increased use of fossil fuels, deforestation, even suburban sprawl and urban development.
Many types of extreme weather and climate event changes have been observed during the five-decade period and continued climatic changes are projected for this century.
The report says, in North America, 2006 was the second hottest year on record, with the higher latitudes of Alaska and Canada experiencing the greatest temperature anomalies.
Since the record hot year of 1998, six of the past ten years have had annual average temperatures that fall in the hottest 10 percent of all years on record for the U.S.
As the planet continues to fry, some critics continue to say it's a natural warming, man has nothing to do with it and, in time, global warming will pass. Still others continue to call it a hoax.
To the contrary, the report says to expect changes in the intensity, duration, frequency, and geographic extent of weather and climate extremes. It also says there is a 90-percent chance that the frequency and intensity of heat waves and monsoon like downpours will rise.
In general, geographically speaking, expect more intense hurricanes spawned by the warmer Atlantic Ocean; heatwaves and drought over much of the nation, especially the Southwest; heavy downpours and floods in large basins like the Mississippi River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin (CA) River Delta.
That could mean heavy monsoon-like downpours that come every 20 years could return every 6 years; 100 and 500 year floods every 10 to 15 years; record hot days, typically experienced a few times every 20 years, could become more common every three or four years.
Some say there is no safe haven.
The fallout can be catastrophic in loss of life, property and money. Climate change that spawns flooding or drought can affect the water supply over an expanse of neighborhoods and communities. Likewise, extreme cold and heat put a strain on the power grid. And wildfires thrive during dry weather.
The report says:
- 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.
- With hotter days and more evaporation, precipitation, on average, is likely to be less frequent, but more intense. The recent Mississippi River Valley storms are an example.
- Sea ice is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in the Arctic Ocean in summer in coming decades. That will raise the sea level along shorelines, erode coastal areas and contribute to more, stronger hurricanes.
- Droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in some regions. Previous reports point to desert sprawl, with deserts' outer lying regions, nearer residential development, expanding and getting hotter.
- Hurricanes will likely have increased precipitation and wind. The Hurricane Katrina year of storms was a harbinger of this condition.
- The strongest cold-season storms in the Atlantic and Pacific are likely to produce stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights. During the winter of 2007, the city of Rome and nearby areas in upstate New York experienced more than 100 inches of snowfall.
The "Weather and Climate Extremes" report comes on the heels of other related reports from the same agency. Other reports discuss adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and the effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity.