Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Climate Change: Effects on North America

In discussing the effects of climate change, I am focused on the effects on the developing world because, quite frankly, I think that the moral and theological implications are greatest when we deal with the poor--who did little to cause the problem, but who will face the most dire consequences.

Still, I also aim to influence my fellow North Americans to deal realistically with the problem, and was therefore pleased that a group of scientists will attempt to predict the local impacts of climate change on North America:

There is no question now that the climate is changing on a global scale," says Takle, an Iowa State University professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and agronomy. "The evidence is so overwhelming."

But what does that mean on a smaller scale? How are greenhouse gases changing the climate in North America? In the United States? In Iowa?

After all, "You and I are not affected by a few tenths of a degree of temperature change on a global scale," Takle said.

Takle is working with Bill Gutowski, an Iowa State professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, and Ray Arritt, an Iowa State professor of agronomy, to find some answers about regional climate change.

The three have worked together on climate studies for 15 years. And now they've joined an international group of scientists collaborating on the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program. The assessment program is led by Linda Mearns, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The National Science Foundation is funding the Iowa State work on the project with a $353,000 grant.

The project calls for six teams of researchers (four from the United States, including the Iowa State group, one from Canada and one from Europe) to run their own regional climate models using at least two sets of identical data from two research groups studying global climate change. The research groups will see what their models say about regional climate change and compare the results. Ultimately, the researchers will create data sets that will help them study the impacts of climate change on a continental or even statewide scale.

Read it all here.

(The image above shows how much daily summer high temperatures are expected to increase from the 1990s to the 2040s, according to a climate model prepared by the Iowa State University Regional Climate Modeling Laboratory.(Credit: Image courtesy of Iowa State University))

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