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New Map Pinpoints Climate-Driven Disasters in AZ, US

Wildfires exacerbated by a warming climate often destroy important wildlife habitat, in Arizona and elsewhere in the West. (yelantsevv/Adobe Stock)
Wildfires exacerbated by a warming climate often destroy important wildlife habitat, in Arizona and elsewhere in the West. (yelantsevv/Adobe Stock)
November 27, 2019

PHOENIX – From floods to wildfires to deadly heat waves, the effects of climate change identified on a new, interactive map are all too real, in Arizona and across the nation.

Developed by the National Wildlife Federation, the map shows where climate change-fueled disasters have made environmental extremes dangerous, both for people and animals, and pinpoints where these events are negatively affecting Arizona's wildlife.

Nikki Julien, climate program director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation, said the map shows where man-made structures are magnifying the heat.

"Here in Phoenix, we're especially creating a 'heat-island effect,' and a lot of other cities also are developing that heat island," she said. "The heat from the sun permeates the concrete and the asphalt, and it doesn't release very quickly - so, it releases over time, which makes the air hotter."

According to the "Unnatural Disasters" map, by October of this year, there were 10 weather and climate events that each exceeded $1 billion in losses. Studies show that in the United States, some 12,000 species are at increased risk of extinction due to the effects of climate-driven disasters.

Julien said the technology and expertise exist to combat climate change, but added that quicker action on the part of elected leaders is needed. She said the effects of drought and extreme heat already are forcing Arizona wildlife to change their habits, just to adapt.

"For animals specifically, they are then looking for a place to get out of that heat - looking for water, looking for food - and they'll travel earlier in the year than they normally would," she said. "But when we're getting drought all over the state, there's not as many places for them to go, not as many water catchments for them to find, not as much food for them to find."

The National Wildlife Federation is calling on Congress to act quickly to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to levels sufficient to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

The Unnatural Disasters map is online at

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ