Warming planet

This is what climate change looks like - drought, unprecedented wildfires, freak storms and severe heat.

The evidence continues to mount that the strange and extreme weather the nation and world is encountering in this second decade of the 21st century is not just some quirky deviation from the norm. Rather it is a signal that global warming is now generating substantial weather pattern changes and could be accelerating.

"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire," said University of Arizona geosciences professor and atmospheric sciences professor Jonthan Overpeck, speaking to the Associated Press.

While the largest and most severe national heat wave in recent memory has abated somewhat, below average precipitation conditions or official drought persists in three-quarters of the country. Extreme drought conditions exist across the top corn-growing states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The New York Times reports on farmers in Illinois and Missouri giving up on parched fields, mowing down the stunted plants.

Wldfires have burned about 2.5 million acres of land, with peak forest fire season still to come. A 2009 report produced by the U.S. Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, National Association of State Foresters, Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service, warned of an alarming trend.

"The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probability of longer and bigger fire seasons in more regions of the nation. What has already been realized in the past five years - shorter, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers (with) larger amounts of total fire on the landscape, more large wildfires - will persist and probably escalate," stated the fire-review report, produced every four years.

A review by the National Climatic Data Center found 86 all-time heat records were set across the country during the final week of June, more than every June for the previous decade put together.

Globally the 11 years since 2001 rank among the 13 hottest since reliable record-keeping began to surface around 1880.

Yet critics continue to ridicule the need for supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry as an alternative to fossil fuels, discredit environmental regulations intended to lower carbon dioxide emissions, and disregard the overwhelming evidence of man's impact on climate.

What evidence will they need?

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