Degraded air quality, urban heat islands, early snow melt, wildfires and heat waves in the Intermountain West may all be the result of climate change interacting with changes in land use and demographics, according to a new report from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The huge report released this past week is available at downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap4-6/sap4-6-final-all.pdf.

The EPA's Global Change Research program within its Office of Research and Development led in the development of the new report, which is one of 21 synthesis and assessment products commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The CCSP was created in 2002 to provide the country with science-based knowledge to "manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems."

The regional highlights (Utah is not singled out) from the report include:

• "For example, many rapidly growing places in the Mountain West may also experience decreased snow pack during winter and earlier spring melting, leading to lower stream flows, particularly during the high-demand period of summer.

• "Forest fires with their associated decrements to air quality and pulmonary effects are likely to increase in frequency, severity, distribution and duration in the Southeast, the Intermountain West and the West.

The report's lead author was the EPA's Janet L. Gamble. Its title is "Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems."

"This report examines the impacts on human society of global change, especially those associated with climate change," Gamble wrote. "The impact assessments in this report do not rely on specific emissions or climate change scenarios but, instead, rely on the existing scientific literature with respect to our understanding of climate change and its impacts on human health, settlements and human well-being in the United States. Because climate change forecasts are generally not specific enough for the scale of local decision-making, this report adopts a vulnerability perspective in assessing impacts on human society."


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com