EPA's Updated Climate Indicators Page Shows The Severity Of The Climate Crisis
(Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)
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EPA’s Updated Climate Indicators Page Shows The Severity Of The Climate Crisis

The Biden EPA refreshed the agency’s Climate Change Indicators page with new data, which hadn’t been done for several years. The updated assessment reveals how the planetary emergency is affecting the United States. It shows that cities nationwide are experiencing more frequent and intense heatwaves, lake and ocean temperatures are increasing, sea levels along the coasts are rising, wildfire season is peaking sooner, and more.

Those and other concerning trends constitute further evidence of the urgency for climate crisis response. The page points out that many of these changes are linked to human-induced greenhouse gas levels rising in our atmosphere.

Michael Regan, the EPA Administrator, said:

EPA’s Climate Indicators website is a crucial scientific resource that underscores the urgency for action on the climate crisis. With this long-overdue update, we now have additional data and a new set of indicators that show climate change has become even more evident, stronger, and extreme—as has the imperative that we take meaningful action. Combating climate change—it’s not optional. It’s essential.

As listed on an EPA news release, the indicators show:

• Global Temperature – 2016 was the warmest year on record, 2020 was the second warmest, and 2010-2020 was the warmest decade on record since 1880 when thermometer-based observations began.

 

• Arctic Sea Ice – The September 2020 sea ice extent was the second smallest on record. It was more than 900,000 square miles less than the historical 1981–2010 average for that month—a difference three and half times the size of Texas.

 

• Ice Sheets – Since 1992, Greenland and Antarctica have lost ice overall, each losing more than 100 billion metric tons of ice per year on average and accounting for about one-third of observed global sea-level rise between 2006 and 2015.

 

• Heat Waves in U.S. Cities – Heatwaves are occurring more often across the United States. Their frequency has increased steadily, from an average of two heatwaves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s.

 

• U.S. Sea Level – Sea level (relative to the land) rose along much of the U.S. coastline between 1960 and 2020, particularly the Mid-Atlantic coast and parts of the Gulf Coast, where some stations registered increases of more than 8 inches.

 

• Coastal Flooding – Tidal flooding is becoming more frequent at most locations along the East and Gulf Coasts.

 

• Length of the Growing Season – The average length of the growing season in the contiguous 48 states increased by more than two weeks since the beginning of the 20th century.

 

• Marine Species Distribution — In conjunction with warming ocean waters, many marine species off U.S. coasts are shifting northward and are moving to deeper waters. Shifts have occurred among several economically important fish and shellfish species.

The EPA also added new sections detailing how rising global temperatures have lowered permafrost temperatures in Alaska, shortened the duration of ice cover in the Great Lakes, and reduced the surface area of glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Regan told the New York Times:

There is no small town, big city, or rural community that is unaffected by the climate crisis. Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close, with increasing regularity.

Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Times:

While the Biden administration’s decision to revive the EPA assessment is welcome, it’s a bare minimum that the government should update this kind of data regularly and available to the public. We have a very long, uphill road ahead of us for actually enacting policies that will make a change.

The site features interactive data-exploration tools so viewers can take a closer look at graphs, figures, and maps, as well as an overview of how climate change can affect human health and the environment.

The EPA partners with over 50 data contributors from various academic institutions, government agencies, and other organizations to develop the climate change indicators. Each indicator has been peer-reviewed by independent experts.

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