Climate Change Affecting Trees, Streams in the West

Washington, DC (March 27, 2008)- According to a 55-page analysis of the most recent temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the American West is warming nearly twice as fast as the rest of the world. The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) found that for the five-year period 2003-2007, the average temperature in the Colorado River Basin 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 1.0 degree Fahrenheit during the same period. The average temperature increased 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the entire 11-state western region.

In Yellowstone National Park, aerial photographs show vast orange-needled forests of whitebark pine that were green just three years ago. Colorado has started losing its lodgepole pine forests to a pine bark beetle infestation. Rocky Mountain snowpacks are melting earlier in spring, leaving warmer trout streams and less water for summer irrigation. As recently reported in EESI’s Climate Change News, Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs are half-empty.
RMCO report author Stephen Saunders said, “We are seeing signs of the economic impacts throughout the West. 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.” RMCO is a coalition of local governments, businesses and others working to protect the climate. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) funded and helped compile the report, entitled “Hotter and Drier: The West’s Changed Climate.”
Related Resources:
Seattle Post Intelligencer
Rocky Mountain Climate Organization
Natural Resources Defense Council
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Environmental and Energy Study Institute