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Weather extremes sharpening, group says

11/20/2012 @ 11:53am

Amidst quiet, apprehensive outlooks that 2013 could see the continuation of the drought that chewed through the nation's midsection and more this year, a new outlook gives further evidence that the climate in the next 12 months could continue a trend of "wet years get wetter and dry years get drier," a group of climate specialists said earlier this week.

The 138 scientists representing 27 Iowa colleges and universities issued the "Iowa Climate Statement" on behalf of the Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa this week. The report shows a strong correlation between greenhouse gases, commonly thought to be behind global warming, and weather extremes like this year's drought. One member of the group said we don't have to look much further than the Corn Belt during the summer of 2012 or flooding in 2008 for evidence of this link.

"In a warmer climate, wet years get wetter and dry years get drier," says Iowa State University climate science professor Chris Anderson. "And dry years get hotter -- that is precisely what happened in Iowa this year."

Group leaders say though extremes are more likely on both ends of the spectrum, those on the high end of the thermometer will be more common moving forward, adds Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research director Jerry Schnoor. Further, this shift that's already had a profound effect on the Midwest's environment and economy will continue to weigh on the latter as much as it does the former.

"Iowans are living with climate change now, and it is already costing us money,” says Drake University Environmental Science and Policy Chair Dave Courard-Hauri. "Iowans can be a part of the solution, creating jobs and growing our economy in the process."