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The Big Melt

April 1, 2010

New Climate Central projection map shows local and national retreat of freezing temperatures in March

On March 31, Climate Central published an interactive animated map showing what we might expect in Marches to come as the climate warms. Developed by Climate Central scientists, the map uses special high-resolution projections covering the Lower 48 states to show where average March temperatures are expected to be above or below freezing each decade this century. The map also compares projections under a low, reduced carbon pollution scenario versus a high one that extends current trends.

Under the high scenario, Climate Central’s work shows majority or complete loss, by the end of the century, of these freezing zones in every state analyzed. Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota would lose the most total below-freezing area, while seven other states, from Arizona to Wisconsin, are projected to lose all they currently have. A table on the group’s website lists details state by state.

The projections promise earlier starts for gardeners, farmers, and golf enthusiasts. At the same time, they would mean earlier snowmelt. In the American West, early snowmelt years have already been linked to drier rivers and forests later in the summer, and very much higher wildfire activity ““ projected to intensify with further warming. Scientists also expect challenges for irrigation supplies and cold-water stream life like trout.

“These maps imply future changes the research community is only beginning to appreciate,” said Climate Central scientist Dr. Ben Strauss.

Climate Central is a nonprofit group of journalists and scientists dedicated to communicating the best and latest climate science.

Image Caption: In blue: projected areas with average March temperatures below freezing in the 2010s (above) compared to the 2090s (below), under a high carbon emissions scenario extending current trends. Click here  to see interactive map. Credit: Graphic by Remik Ziemlinski

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