Feb. 18, 2068: Powerful thunderstorms rake the Wasatch Mountains as the spring rains come in one big deluge. Salt Lake City is hit by flash floods because the soil in the foothills has been hardened by years of high temperatures and cannot absorb water.
Admittedly, that's a long-range prediction. But it may not be so far-fetched, judging by scientific reports at a regional workshop on climatic change sponsored by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology.The Rocky Mountain-Great Basin Regional Workshop, one of 20 such meetings held throughout the country for the past and next several months, concluded Wednesday at the Little America Hotel, 500 S. Main. The meeting drew about 100 participants, including experts from science, economics and industry, and state and federal governments.
Much of the conference work was the presentation of scientific research on the likelihood that global climate changes really are occurring.
"As far as I'm concerned the majority of the evidence points to the reality of global warming," said Frederic H. Wagner of the Ecology Center at Utah State University, Logan. He and Jill Baron of the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division, Fort Collins, are co-conveners of the conference.
Wagner said he believes global warming is caused by the release of greenhouse gases, largely the carbon dioxide released when coal, oil, gasoline or natural gas are burned. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been increasing at 1 percent per year, he said.
At that rate, the carbon dioxide content of Earth's atmosphere will double in about 70 years, he said. Actually, that forecast is conservative because developing nations are expected to begin pouring many more tons of pollution into the atmosphere as they fire up their industries.
If greenhouse gases only increase at that 1 percent year, however, "the prediction of the climatologists and the geophysicists is that the average global temperature will rise somewhere between 3 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also expected to be some increase in the global precipitation."
When the oceans become hotter that will cause faster evaporation so that more water vapor is put into the world's weather systems. That means more rainfall overall. But the amount may not increase here.
The West's complex terrain makes it extremely hard to predict what will happen in this region. But temperatures are likely to go up around the world, with the increase more striking in the night than during the day.
Hotter soil will mean that more moisture will evaporate out of the ground. "There's going to probably be some drying effect due to the increased temperature," he said.
The Western snowpack could be diminished, also. With warmer weather generally, winter will come later and spring earlier. (That is why the Deseret News cooked up the prediction for spring rains in February, 70 years from now.) With the runoff earlier and the snowpack not lasting as long, "there are likely to be some kind of effects on water resources," Wagner said. Possibly the state will end up with less water, even though precipitation increases globally.
It is hard to predict that because nobody can say for certain what these changes will mean for global circulation patterns.
But one thing that seems likely is that storms will be more furious.