Impact Of Climate Change

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Oklahoma experiences periodic droughts, occurring particularly in semiarid areas of western Oklahoma, the most famous of which occurred during the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl is the name coined for the seven-year period of severe drought that affected areas of the Midwest during the 1930s. A combination of below-normal rainfall, higher summer temperatures, strong winds, and erosion-causing agricultural and ranching practices devastated fertile land. Topsoil from Oklahoma and other states was picked up by the wind and carried away.

Climate models vary on temperature increase for Oklahoma, from 2-6 degrees F (1-3 degrees C) in the winter, from 1-5 degrees F (1-2.7 degrees C) in summer and fall, and from 1-4 degrees F (1-2 degrees C) in spring by the end of the century. Potential risks include possible increase in frequency and intensity of summer thunderstorms; decreased water supplies (eastern Oklahoma has plentiful surface water for supplying Oklahoma City, western Oklahoma relies on groundwater for irrigation, and the panhandle relies on groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer); flooding in urban areas and along tributary streams, more intense rains would increase contamination of water supplies by erosion, chemicals, and runoff from mining, oil, and gas areas. Temperature changes could decrease wheat yields and cause drier conditions. This could lead to drier soil, and a need for additional irrigation. Health risks include certain infectious diseases from water contamination or disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents, and heat-related illnesses.

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