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Climate Change Impacts Felt Far From Coasts, Map Reveals

By: Terrell Johnson
Published: July 22, 2013

U.S. Dept. of Energy

Climate change isn't just a problem for coastal cities, this clickable map created by the U.S. Department of Energy shows. Highlighted are impacts on energy supplies in cities across the country, due to three factors: increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, and increasing storms, flooding and sea level rise.

Dramatic images of ocean waves lashing the coastline while floodwaters inundate city streets -- especially during storms like last year's Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Isaac -- may leave the impression that climate change is only, or at least mostly, a problem for cities along the coasts.

But as this new interactive map created by the U.S. Department of Energy shows, the impacts of climate change are actually felt far and wide, as climate-related power outages occur in every corner of the country.

Across the 48 contiguous U.S. states, the ripple effect of warming temperatures -- about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the start of the 20th century, according to DOE -- has spread throughout the nation's energy supplies, either directly from drought-related disruptions of power plants or indirectly, from the interruption of fuel supplies during severe storms.

The DOE report, titled "U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather," focuses on three major climate trends that it says are critical to the nation's power supplies: warming air and water temperatures, lack of water during droughts, and the increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding and sea level rise.

Each plays a critical role in power generation, like the water supplies that cool thermoelectric power plants as well as rivers like the Mississippi, which keep fuel shipments moving.

The map features a tour of major weather events over the past decade and the power outages they left behind -- not just hurricanes, but also floods like the Missouri River flood that surrounded a pair of Kansas City nuclear plants in June 2011 to severe drought on the Georgia-to-Florida Chattahoochee River in 2007, which cut the generation of hydroelectric power in the Southeast by nearly half.

To adapt to a warmer world, the report's authors call for a renewed emphasis on energy efficiency across a range of power generation technologies, and for making the nation's power grid more "climate-resilient" against wildfires, floods, severe storms, hurricanes and sea level rise.

Read the full DOE report here or see the interactive map here.

 

MORE: Satellite Images of a Changing Climate

The Ash Creek Fire seen here is one of some 27,000 fires which have destroyed nearly 2 million acres of the western U.S. since the start of 2012. Extremely dry conditions, stiff winds, unusually warm weather, and trees killed by outbreaks of pine bark beetles have provided ideal conditions for the blazes. (Credit: NASA)


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