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Study: Climate change could mean more heat and extreme weather for Colorado

Already this year, Greeley has seen nine days in which the high temperature broke — or tied — a record.

Record-breaking heat could increasingly become the norm, as average annual temperatures inch upward, according to a study released Tuesday by the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, both environmental advocacy groups.

Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1994, have come of age with average annual temperatures across the nation 1.6 degrees warmer than when Baby Boomers entered adulthood in the 1970s, the study said. In Colorado, temperatures have increased by 1.9 degrees over the same time frame, while the northeast has experienced the greatest spike. In New York and New Jersey, temperatures have risen by 2.4 degrees.

Environment Colorado campaign organizer Anna McDevitt said the upward temperature trend, accompanied by extreme weather events, has left a dangerous inheritance for the next generation.

“We used to think global warming would happen someday, but someday is now,” she said during a phone call with reporters.

Chuck Rhoades, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, sat in on the briefing to warn of the dangers of increased wildfire risk in Colorado. Since the 1980s, he said wildfires have become bigger and more frequent.

In related news, EPA delays carbon rules for power plants.

“Our research at the Hayman and High Park fires here in Colorado has shown that larger and more severe fires, those that kill most of the forest vegetation and remove organic soil layers, have more serious consequences for stream water quality and municipal water treatment,” he said, pointing to the threat to water storage supplies located in the high country.

In a statement released later in the day, water availability also was outlined as a top concern by University of Northern Colorado economics professor Mark Eiswerth.

“Reductions in average precipitation and increased incidence of drought cause water supplies to diminish — but at the same time, reduced natural precipitation and hotter weather increase the demand for water — for example, for the irrigation of lawns and crops,” he said. “Uncertainties surrounding water availability have major implications for the economy and public health and well-being.”

The study also indicated greater extremes in weather events that could contribute to flooding, water-borne illness and crop damages.

In Colorado, the average precipitation in 24 hours produced by large-scale storms increased 13 percent between 1970 and 2011, the study reported. Again, the East Coast showed the largest increase, with precipitation per large-scale storm increasing by as much as 40 percent in New Hampshire.

This article was written by Kayla Young from Greeley Tribune, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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