The Great Plains got a taste of future climate change with the historic weather of 2011 — extraordinary snow and rain across the north mirrored by intense drought across the south, according to a review of the latest climate science published Friday.
The report, required every four years by federal law, was posted in draft form online so the public can comment on it before it is formally presented to Congress and the president late this year. In addition to a national overview, the report analyzes expected regional changes.
In the Great Plains, the regional changes are projected to include wetter weather across the northern Plains and drier years across the southern Plains.
In 2011, Texas and Oklahoma baked under their hottest summer on record — many communities sweated through more than 100 days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.
In the north, historic flooding occurred along the Missouri River as Montana and Wyoming endured their wettest spring on record; Nebraska and the Dakotas followed not too far behind.
The combined runoff overwhelmed six large upstream dams, leading to widespread flooding that destroyed some communities and threatened Council Bluffs.
Between the drought to the south and the flooding to the north, more than $12 billion in damage occurred, according to the report.
Other consequences of a warming climate in the Nebraska-Iowa corridor include increased demand for water and energy, changes in crop cycles, longer growing seasons, more frequent and intense heat waves, changing composition of forests and the increasing vulnerability of communities to extreme weather.
It is possible, the report notes, that the changes in the decades ahead in the Midlands will be unlike anything seen in the past century.
Midlanders will have an opportunity to directly voice their thoughts about the report. Eight town hall meetings have been scheduled nationally, and one will be in Lincoln.
Registration is required to attend the Lincoln session, which has been scheduled for Feb. 4 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
More than 240 experts contributed to the 30-chapter report.
The study discusses natural variability in climate and attempts, when possible, to quantify the extent that human activity is responsible. For example, research concludes that the 2011 heat wave across the southern Plains was made twice as likely to occur by human influences on climate.
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