American west is new global hot spot

March 30th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by admin  


New York, March 30 (IANS) The American west is heating up more rapidly than the rest of the world, according to a new study that analyses the latest temperature figures. The average temperature rise in the southwest’s largest river basin was more than double the average global increase, likely spelling even more parched conditions, ScienceDaily reported.

The news is especially bad for some of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, which receive water from the drought-stricken Colorado River. “Global warming is hitting the West hard,” said Theo Spencer of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“It is already taking an economic toll on the region’s tourism, recreation, skiing, hunting and fishing activities. The speed of warming and mounting economic damage make clear the urgent need to limit pollution by global warming.”

The study analysed new temperature data for 11 western states. For the five-year period 2003-2007, the average temperature in the Colorado River Basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico, was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the historical average for the 20th century.

The temperature rise was more than twice the global average increase of one degree during the same period. The average temperature increased by 1.7 degrees in the entire 11-state western region.

“We are seeing signs of the economic impacts throughout the West,” said the author of the study, Stephen Saunders of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organisation.

“Since 2000, we have seen $2.7 billion in crop loss claims due to drought. Global warming is harming valuable commercial salmon fisheries, reducing hunting activity and revenues, and threatening shorter and less profitable seasons for ski resorts,” Saunders said.

The Colorado River Basin is in the throes of a record drought, shrinking water supplies for upwards of 30 million people in fast-growing Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Most of the flow of the Colorado River comes from melting snow in the mountains of Wyoming and Utah. Climate scientists predict even more and drier droughts in the future as hotter temperatures reduce the snow pack and increase evaporation.

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