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Wild weather is no coincidence

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Wild weather is no coincidence
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Enjoying the unseasonably warm weather?

Stop a minute while you're basking in the sun to think about this: A new report finds that 4 out of 5 Minnesotans live in counties affected by federally declared weather-related disasters since 2006.

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Becker County is a three-time loser -- floods in 2006 and 2011 and a severe storm in 2009.

Clay County is a four-time loser -- three floods and a severe storm.

Otter Tail County has seen a flood, a severe storm and a tornado during that time period.

Hubbard, Mahnomen and Clearwater counties all suffered a severe storm as well.

Maybe it's a big coincidence, or a not-very-merry mix-up, but we think it's more likely that the vast majority of climate scientists are right -- global warming is occurring, and it's being pushed by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses caused by humans.

The Environment Minnesota report -- In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States -- examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2006 through 2011.

The idea was to determine how many Minnesotans live in counties hit by recent weather disasters -- and it documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future.

Key facts about recent extreme weather in Minnesota and findings from the Environment Minnesota report include:

• Recently, severe droughts in the Arrowhead region led to the Pagami Creek fire, the largest forest fire in Minnesota in 93 years, which burned around 145 square miles inside and outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and led to severe thunderstorms downwind of the fire.

• Since summer of 2011, central and southern Minnesota have seen extreme drought conditions, including the driest autumn ever recorded in the region's history.

These droughts have led to a parched agricultural landscape in central and southern Minnesota.

• In spring and early summer of 2011, major flooding caused devastation across the state. With the spring snow melt, major flooding occurred along the Mississippi, Minnesota, St. Croix and Red rivers.

• This flooding followed a 1,000-year flood event in September 2010 in southern Minnesota.

Intense rains on Sept. 22 and 23 ended with over 4 inches falling in nearly all of southern Minnesota and over 6 inches falling in numerous communities. This rain led to flash floods that caused basement flooding, road closures, and record-high river levels throughout southern Minnesota.

• Since 2006, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected 75 counties in Minnesota housing 4.3 million people - or nearly 4 out of 5 Minnesotans.

• Nationally, the number of disasters inflicting more than $1 billion in damage (at least 14) set an all-time record last year, with total damages from those disasters costing at least $55 billion.

Ironically, the steep fall in natural gas prices has done what nobody else could do and tamped down on output from coal-fired power plants -- by far the biggest contributors of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Coal's share of power generation is at its lowest in the U.S. since 1979.

That's a good start, but to avoid ever-more extreme weather, we need to do more to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

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