Climate change report details dangerous future for Tri-State weather

Local expert weighs in

CINCINNATI -- Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy and dangerous, according to a new federal scientific report .

But what does this mean for the Tri-State?

Climate change's assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate Assessment concluded Tuesday.

The full analysis is more than 800 pages long – 38 of which focus on the Midwest.

The report emphasizes that warming and all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, using the phrase "climate disruption" as another way of saying global warming.

It is full of figures, charts and other research-generated graphics, and includes 3,096 footnotes to other mostly peer-reviewed research. More than 250 scientists and government officials began writing it in 2012.

The National Climate Assessment states the Midwest will see longer seasons in the future. It also details an increase in extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and flash floods.

University of Cincinnati geology professor Barry Maynard was one of many around the nation who praised the report Tuesday.

“This whole business of climate change has been very controversial and it’s nice to be able to look at the data instead of listening to somebody spin the data,” Maynard said. “That’s one thing that this report is pretty good at. You can see the data.”

Many Tri-Staters enjoying the sun Tuesday said they have noticed a change in Cincinnati’s climate.

Cincinnati resident Barbara Banfill said she doesn’t remember temperatures being so extreme.

“I just wonder why it’s so, so hot in the summer and why it’s so, so cold in the winters.” Banfill said. “What’s happening to make these changes? It wasn’t always this way.”

Maynard said a good example of climate change can be seen in the Ohio River during winter months.

In the 1970s, the river would freeze. But that hasn’t been the case recently.

“In Cincinnati, the thing that impressed me the most when we first moved here is the river would freeze every winter,” Maynard said. “So we’ve got very dramatic evidence of the fact that winters have been warmer for the most part, year after year over the last 90 to 100 years.”

But many argue this winter was one of the coldest. Remember that polar vortex?

Maynard said that extreme temperature shift is a result of climate change.

“When you have all this extra heat coming into the system, it moves it, and so the polar vortex moved off to the east and began to affect our weather rather badly,” he said. 

White House science adviser John Holdren called the report, the third edition of a congressionally mandated study, "the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signaling the need to take urgent action."

But not everyone agrees with the assessment’s findings.

Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana said the report was supposed to be scientific but "it's more of a political one used to justify government overreach."

National Climate Assessment co-author Katharine Hayhoe said 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.

Extreme weather like droughts, storms and heat waves hit us in the pocketbooks and can be seen by our own eyes, she said.

Heat waves, such as those in Texas in 2011 and the Midwest in 2012, are projected to intensify nationwide. Droughts in the Southwest are expected to get stronger. Sea level has risen 8 inches since 1880 and is projected to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet by 2100.

Maynard said Tuesday’s report should be taken very seriously.

“I would encourage people to look for themselves, look around, look at the details of the data that’s in the report,” Maynard said. “Come to your own conclusions.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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