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Editorial - Climate change hits state hard

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501
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It's not just your imagination: The number of record-setting weather events in 2012 set a record in itself.

Records fell across the nation, but Minnesota was in the thick of the action -- in the top 10 states for weather events.

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Last year Minnesota saw:

• Record-breaking heat in 42 counties -- including Becker and Otter Tail-- and a total of 90 broken heat records.

• Record-breaking precipitation in 34 counties and a total of 72 broken precipitation records -- including records in Frazee, Ottertail village, Hawley and Pelican Rapids.

• Record-breaking snow in 5 counties and a total of 6 broken snow records.

• A total of 36 large wildfires.

See for yourself: The record-breaking weather is detailed in an interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

New this year, the interactive map at www.nrdc.org/extremeweather ranks all 50 states by their percentage of weather stations reporting at least one monthly heat record broken in 2012. The top 10 states (in alphabetical order) are: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Tallies from last year are not reassuring: Even more monthly weather records were set than the 3,251 records smashed in 2011.

In 2012, Americans experienced several unforgettably devastating extreme events. Climate scientists say these types of events are fueled by climate change:

• 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) State of the Climate report released last Tuesday.

• Hurricane Sandy's storm surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in the New York Harbor, and ravaged communities across New Jersey and New York with floodwaters and winds.

• The summer of 2012 was the worst drought in 50 years across the nation's breadbasket, with over 1,300 counties across 29 states declared drought disaster areas. And that drought appears to be coming our way.

• The hottest March on record in the contiguous U.S., and July was the hottest single month ever recorded in the lower 48 states.

• Wildfires burned over 9.2 million acres in the U.S., and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Climate change doesn't come cheap: The NOAA has estimated that 2012 will surpass 2011 in aggregate costs for U.S. annual billion-dollar disasters, in large part due to the trails of destruction from Superstorm Sandy and the yearlong drought.

The bad news just keeps coming:

Minnesota and surrounding states are experiencing more severe heat waves, threats to the agricultural sector and more extreme rainfall events and flooding due in part to global warming, according to the new draft National Climate Assessment report released on Friday. The draft report incorporates input from more than 240 experts from around the country, and from federal agencies including the Department of Energy and NASA.

From major flooding in Duluth this summer and across the state in recent years to extreme droughts throughout the Midwest, Minnesota is experiencing many of the dangerous changes in weather and climate that are described in the new draft report.

The evidence is piling up in favor of man-made climate change, and it doesn't look like it's going to be a change for the better.

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