Global climate change chart
The newly released National Climate Assessment spans 30 chapters with thousands of references on how climate change is impacting the U.S. The report took more than 300 scientists and 4 years to prepare, including addressing more than 4, 000 comments from the public. The message of the report is that climate change is already happening across the country.
“Climate change is not a distant threat, it is already affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the economy. This national climate assessment is the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date, ” White House science advisor John Holdren said in a phone call with reporters.
That message is reinforced by a number of powerful images in the report. To understand the changes that are already occurring and what's projected for the future, here are eight of the report's most compelling graphics that each tell a chapter of the global warming story.
What it shows: Average temperatures have already risen in the U.S. by 1.5°F since 1895 with over 80 percent of the increase coming since 1980. But the increase hasn’t been even. Temperatures have risen particularly fast in the Midwest, Southwest, and Alaska. While the Southeast has lagged behind that pace, it too is still warming.
Why it matters: Increases in average temperature over large areas is one of the main benchmarks of climate change, but it's important to remember that each region of the U.S. will have to deal with differing rates of change. It's also important to remember that warming is expected to intensify and temperatures could rise by up to 10°F by the end of the century.
What it shows: Heavy precipitation events are dropping even more rain and occurring more often. The Northeast has seen the most notable rise in the amount of precipitation falling from very heavy events, with a 71 percent increase from 1958-2012. Every region of the country except Hawaii has seen at least some increase.
Why it matters: Heavy precipitation can overwhelm stormwater infrastructure and increase the chances of flooding. Recent examples of extreme rainfall events that have caused serious damage in the U.S. include last year's Colorado floods and last week's deluge in Pensacola. While they haven't been tied to climate change specifically, they're in line with climate trends.