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California report: climate change impacts are increasingly obvious

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The effects of climate change are increasingly clear in California.

That's the conclusion of a recent report, which noted that sea levels along the Pacific coast are rising, freshwater lakes are getting warmer, and flora and fauna are moving to higher ground.

"The combined impact described by these indicators is dramatic," California Environmental Protection Agency secretary Matthew Rodriquez said.

Among the report's findings:

* High, low, and average air temperatures in California are rising, with nighttime low temperatures rising twice as fast as daytime high temperatures;

* Extreme heat events have increased in frequency and duration;

* Acreage burned by wildfire has been rising since the 1950s, and the acreage burned each year, on average, since 2000 is nearly twice the average for the 1950-2000 period; and

* Water flows from snow melt have decreased.

The report also documents upslope movement of coniferous trees in the Sierra Nevada mountains and alterations in the range of several mammal species native to Yosemite National Park since the early 20th century.

Average temperatures in California provide one of the clearest windows into the impacts of human-caused atmospheric change. Since 1895, according to the report, the average air temperature there has risen by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The rate of change is accelerating.

Changes in the sea level along the California coast are also apparent.

The report's authors concluded that it has risen by an average of seven inches along most of the Golden State's long coastline.

The impacts of the phenomenon are likely to be far-reaching.

"Sea-level rise could lead to flooding of low-lying areas, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of coastal beaches, saltwater contamination of groundwater aquifers and impacts on roads, sewage treatment plants and other coastal infrastructure," the report explained.

As for the state's lakes, climate change is making their waters warmer.

"Lake waters have been warming at Lake Tahoe, Lake Almanor, Clear Lake and Mono Lake since the 1990s," the report concluded.

Nearly 600,000 acres in the Golden State have burned, on average, every year since 2000, the researchers found, while only 264,000 acres burned in the average year between 1950-2000.

California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment compiled the 36
indicators of climate change. The agency relied upon data obtained from locations throughout the state and research studies from other state agencies, federal agencies, universities, and private institutions.

The Indicators of Climate Change in California report was published Aug. 8.

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