WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

The National Climate Assessment and North Carolina

Posted May 6, 2014

— The climate has changed, it is continuing to change and human activity is the leading contributor to that change in the last 50 years. So says the 2014 National Climate Assessment, a summary of climate change impacts in the United States authored by more than 300 experts.

Moreover, the report concludes that, even with aggressive reductions in carbon emissions, we will likely continue to see warming across the globe, changes in North Carolina’s weather patterns and climate-related impacts on our lives.

At the core, the report concludes the average temperature across the globe has increased more than 1.5°F since 1880, including a 0.5-1.5°F warming across North Carolina during that time. Locally, that’s leading to fewer nights below freezing, more days with highs above 95°F and a longer growing season (six days longer across the southeastern U.S.).

The warmer atmosphere is also contributing to other changes, including sea level rises. Globally, the report says, the average sea level has risen about 8 inches in the last century, and additional rises of 1 to 4 feet are projected. The Outer Banks and sound-side areas of North Carolina are highly susceptible to this rise, according to the report’s authors. In fact, the state Department of Transportation is raising the roadbed of U.S. Highway 64 in eastern North Carolina near the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds to protect it against rising sea levels.

Precipitation patterns are also shifting globally, with some areas getting wetter while others dry out. The desert Southwest, northern Rockies, Hawaii and parts of the Southeast have seen annual precipitation trending downward, with western and central North Carolina seeing drops of 5 to 15 percent of annual rainfall. As a result, the report asserts, availability of fresh water for drinking and other uses in much of North Carolina will also trend downward in the next 50 years, perhaps by 2.5 percent. The southeastern quarter of North Carolina may see water availability trend upward, however, as a result of higher precipitation trends.

The report also documents reductions in arctic sea ice, the mass of ice over Antarctica and in glacial ice content elsewhere, as well as changes in patterns of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, snowstorms and hurricanes. It concludes with a wide range of response strategies, including mitigation (e.g., reducing carbon emissions) and adaptation techniques.

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  • for the people May 14, 2014

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    whats bull? that the earth is warming? uh...facts beat political partisanship every time. the argument is shouldn't be if the earth is warming, it should be what are we going to do about it.

  • WralCensorsAreBias May 9, 2014

    All bull. Just an obstruction to cover up for your looming healthcare increase.

  • sciencegirl May 8, 2014

    The Law of Conservation of Mass requires us to address our use of fossil fuel. We are changing the the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Both adaptation and decreasing CO2 are required. There is much work to be done in the coming years.

  • McLovin May 6, 2014

    Moreover, the report concludes that, even with aggressive reductions in carbon emissions, we will likely continue to see warming across the globe,

    Right, so theres nothing we can do about it except adapt. We will have to adapt to a warming climate until it reverses itself as it has done in the past and begins to cool again. then we will have to adapt to a cooling world.

    Bottom line, is stop wasting money on trying to stop climate change and use it to help people prepare for hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc. Why worry about the future when its people in need now when it comes to natural disasters.

  • Dana McCall May 6, 2014
    user avatar

    The sample size comprises 00.00008% of the period since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Did these scientists discuss how many times similar trends in climate change have happened during that 65M-year period?