because of Pennsylvania's interior location in the northeast, it is in prime position to experience the many negative effects associated with global warming. By 2100, average summer temperatures in Pennsylvania could increase between 7-9 degrees F (4-5 degrees C). This temperature change could cause extreme cases of precipitation. Some parts of the state could experience up to a 50 percent increase in rainfall, while other areas face drought conditions.
In Philadelphia, by 2050, heat-related deaths during a typical summer could increase by 90 percent, from about 130 deaths per summer to more than 240. Currently, "red alert" air quality days happen about two days every summer in Pittsburgh. By the middle of the century, this number could rise to five days per summer. Also, ozone levels in the city are already above the Environmental Protection Agency's healthy standard at least 10 days out of the year. Global warming could cause this number to increase to 22 days in the near future, meaning more cases of respiratory diseases such as asthma. Loss of wildlife and habitat are also possible threats caused by global warming, which could mean a loss of tourism dollars.
Over the last century, the average temperature in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has increased 1.2 degrees F (0.6 degrees C), and precipitation has increased by up to 20 percent in many parts of the state. Over the next century, climate in Pennsylvania is expected to change even more. Precipitation is estimated to increase by about 10 percent in spring, by about 20 percent in winter and summer, and by as much as 50 percent in fall. The amount of precipitation on extreme wet or snowy days is also likely to increase, which would cause an increase in extremely hot days in summer because of the general warming trend. Although it is not clear how severe storms would change, an increase in the frequency and intensity of summer thunderstorms is possible.
Higher temperatures and increased frequency of heat waves may increase the number of heat-related deaths and the incidence of heat-related illnesses. Pennsylvania, with its irregular, intense heat waves, could be especially susceptible. Similar but smaller increases have been projected for Pittsburgh, from about 40 heat-related deaths to 60, or a 50 percent increase. Winter-related deaths could drop from 85 per winter in Philadelphia, to about 35 per winter if temperatures warm.
The complications that global warming could have on the major cities in the future will also be felt by the rural areas that make up a large portion of the state. Pennsylvania's farming and agriculture industries are vital to the state's economy, as well as the outdoor tourism market; both would be greatly debilitated by effects of global warming. In 2001, more than 4.5 million people spent nearly $3 billion on hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing in Pennsylvania, which in turn supported 56,113 jobs in the state.
Climate change may also increase ground-level ozone levels. For example, high temperatures, strong sunlight, and stable air masses tend to increase urban ozone levels. If a warmed climate causes increased use of air conditioners, air pollutant emissions from power plants also will increase. A preliminary modeling study of the Midwest, which included the area around Pittsburgh, found that a 4 degrees F (2 degrees C) warming, with no other change in weather or emissions, could increase concentrations of ozone, a major component of smog, by as much as 8 percent. Currently, ground-level ozone concentrations exceed national
ozone health standards in several areas throughout the state. Ground-level ozone has been shown to heighten respiratory illnesses such as asthma, as well as other complications. In addition, ambient ozone reduces crop yields and is harmful to ecosystems.
Warming and other climate changes may cause an increase in disease-carrying insects, thus the potential for the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever is increased. Mosquitoes flourish in many areas around Pennsylvania. Some can carry malaria, while others can carry encephalitis, which can be lethal or cause neurological damage. Incidents of Lyme disease, which is carried by ticks, have also increased in the northeast. If conditions become warmer and wetter, mosquito and tick populations could increase in Pennsylvania, increasing the risk of these types of diseases.
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