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4/12/2007

Heat Waves, Storm Surges and Water Shortages, Await North America

Global Warming Alert
North America
April 11, 2007
Chicago and Los Angeles will likely face increasing heat waves. Severe storm surges could hit New York and Boston. And cities that rely on melting snow for water may run into serious shortages. When the Earth gets a few degrees hotter, the current inconvenience could give way to danger and even death. "Canada and the United States are, despite being strong economies with the financial power to cope, facing many of the same impacts that are projected for the rest of the world." "Heavily-utilized water systems of the western U.S. and Canada, such as the Columbia River, that rely on capturing snowmelt runoff, will be especially vulnerable." A temperature warming of a few degrees by the 2040s is likely to sharply reduce summer flows, at a time of rising demand. By then, Portland, Oregon, will require over 26 million additional cubic meters of water as a result of climate change and population growth, but the Columbia River's summer supply will have dropped by an estimated 5 million cubic meters. Meanwhile, just over 40 percent of the water supply to southern California is likely to be vulnerable by the 2020s due to losses of the Sierra Nevada and Colorado River basin snow packs. "Lower levels in the Great Lakes are likely to influence many sectors" and exacerbate controversies over diverting water to cities such as Chicago, and the competing demands of water quality, lake-based transport, and drought mitigation. Cities could also be at risk from high tides and storm surges. Near the end of the 21st century, under a strong warming scenario, the New York City area could be hit by increasingly damaging floods from surges, "putting much of the region's infrastructure at risk." Boston's transportation network may also be at risk from a sea level rise and the increased probability of a powerful storm surge. A 25 percent increase in heat waves is projected for Chicago later this century, while the number of heat-wave days in Los Angeles is projected to increase from the current 12 per year to between 44 and nearly 100.
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