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Study Links Minnesota Weather Extremes with Global Warming

December 5, 2007

Minneapolis, MN – When it rains, it pours. A new study links the increasing number of extreme rainstorms in Minnesota and nationwide with warming earth temperatures. Monique Sullivan with Environment America says the study finds a scientific link between temperature increases and the weather.

"Our report finds that storms with heavy rains and snow are 34 percent more frequent in Minnesota now than they were 60 years ago."

She says the report, which examined data from 3,000 weather stations, shows even relatively small increases in temperatures have had a major impact on weather around the world. It calls for increased efforts to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases to avoid continued damage. In short, says Sullivan, the impact of a warming earth is hitting home.

"Whether it's the droughts that we've been experiencing in the northern part of the state or the flooding in the southern part of the state or the record high temperatures in the Twin Cities, it's clear that Minnesota is feeling the impact of global warming. Global warming is already beginning to affect life across America and around the world. Average temperatures have increased worldwide, species are on the move, and glaciers are melting."

Sullivan says in the 20th century, flooding caused more property damage and loss of life in the U.S. than any other natural disaster.

"Here in Minnesota, most of us remember the rainstorm that hit the state's southeastern counties in the middle of August, along with the rest of the Midwest, dropping over 18 inches of rain. That storm is an illustration of what more extreme rainstorms can mean for our region. That rainstorm led to extreme flooding, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to local farmers and other property owners."

Sullivan says warmer temperatures lead to greater evaporation, so water becomes airborne more quickly and eventually falls back to earth as rain or snow. She says they don't increase the amount of water, but just redistribute it, which has major implications.

She adds there are hopeful signs policymakers are taking notice. Today, the U.S. Senate considers a measure to reduce greenhouse emissions.

To view the report, visit www.environmentamerica.org.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN