Extreme United States Weather Could Become The Norm
By MARK DUNPHY
Climate change could lead to prolonged drought conditions, greater heat extremes more severe flooding and worsening air pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Based on an analysis of data gathered from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other resources, NRDC’s “Climate Change Threatens Health” webpage lets users see the effects of climate change at a regional and state level.
For example, the NRDC web tool compares temperature data in each state from 2000 through 2009 to local temperatures from 1961 to 1990. Users can see that residents of the western United States experienced more days of extreme heat than in previous decades and frequent drought conditions from 2000 through 2009.
Extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease, while drought can lead to lower crop yields and contaminated drinking water. Many communities do not have plans in place to address these problems.
The tool also highlights areas with unhealthy air quality in each state. Users can see in 41 percent of states (21 of 51), the majority of counties experienced both unhealthy summer ozone smog and allergenic ragweed (AR, CT, DC, IL, IN, LA, ME, MA, MI, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WV). Both of these air pollution health threats are projected to worsen due to climate change.
Among other key findings throughout the United States
- 20 states that have experienced the worst extreme heat are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia. This means residents in the majority of these states and in D.C. experienced more than two weeks per summer of extreme heat that was worse than in past decades.
- About 81 percent of those states most vulnerable to extreme heat do not have heat-health adaptation plans (AL, AK, AZ, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, ID, KS, MA, MT, NV, NM, TX, UT, WY). This highlights the lack of climate-health preparedness in many locations.
- At locations both urban and rural, air pollution challenged health in the last decade. Even around cities in the southwest like Phoenix, Arizona, where people used to travel for the clean air, now suffers from a double-whammy of air pollution that will get worse with climate change.