South carolina

south carolina is 32,020 sq. mi. (82,931 sq. km.), with inland water making up 1008 sq. mi. (2,610 sq. km.), coastal water making up 72 sq. mi. (186.5 sq. km.), and territorial water making up 831 sq. mi. (2,152 sq. km.) South Carolina's average elevation is 350 ft. (106 m.) above sea level, with a range in elevation from sea level on the Atlantic Ocean to 3,560 ft. (1,085 m.) at Sassafras Mountain. The major natural regions include what is referred to as the low coun-try—the Coastal Plain with offshore islands (inland is rolling, and along the coast is flat)—and what is referred to as the up-country—piedmont (higher elevation, with forests and pastureland) and Blue Ridge (mountainous and forested). South Carolina has river systems; the large lakes are artificially created.

The state's hot summers and warm winters come from the combination of the state's relatively low latitude, low elevation, proximity of the warm Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and the Appalachian Mountains. During the winter, the mountains limit cold air entering the interior of the continent. Low country summers are hot and humid, though a sea breeze brings some relief. The up-country is usually cooler than the low country, even in the middle of the summer. The highest temperature recorded in the state was 111 degrees F (44 degrees C) on June 28, 1954, and the lowest temperature recorded was minus 19 degrees F (minus 28 degrees C) on January 21, 1986. Winters in South Carolina are mild, with brief periods of cold (lakes and rivers rarely freeze over), throughout the state. Precipitation is abundant all year; snow falls in the mountains but is rare in other parts of the state. Most of the state receives about 48 in. of rain a year, though the mountains areas receive more.

Forests cover much of the state, and wood is commercially harvested for lumber, wood pulp, paper, and furniture. Agriculture products include tobacco, cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. South Carolina's electricity is generated by nuclear power plants and coal-fueled power plants, and a small portion is hydroelectric.

South Carolina is already experiencing the effects of higher temperatures and rising sea levels (nine in. in the last century), and hurricanes and other major storms have increased in intensity and duration by about 50 percent since the 1970s; they are linked to increases in average sea surface temperatures and eroding coastlines. The coastal plains have already experienced problems with water supplies, and the increased use of ground-water for irrigation has lowered groundwater levels.

Although climate models suggest an increase in temperature of 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) by the end of the 21st century, potential risks anticipated include sea levels rising an additional 19 in. or 48 cm. (causing beach erosion and saltwater incursion); decreased water supplies; population (both human and animal) displacement; changes in food production, with agriculture improving in cooler climates and decreasing in warmer climates; forest loss, with persistent drought and loss of trees unsuited to higher temperatures; change in rain pattern to downpours, with the potential for flash flooding (causing sediments, agricultural chemicals, and other substances to leach into water sources); and increased health risks of certain infectious diseases stemming from water contamination or disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents and of heat-related illnesses.

In populated areas at higher elevations, as in northwestern South Carolina, water quality and amount may both become issues. Should the levels of streams, groundwater, and lakes decrease, shortages of water for industrial and municipal markets would occur. Shallow wells would be affected, with rural communities losing water supplies. Higher rainfall would increase flooding and erosion, as well as contaminating the remaining water supplies with runoff.

South Carolina's economy relies on tourism, and beach erosion resulting from climate change would damage the coastline.

On the basis of energy consumption data from the Energy Information Administration's State Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates (SEDS), released June 1, 2007, South Carolina's total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in million metric tons for 2004 was determined to be 88.56, made up of contributions from commercial (1.53), industrial (14.59), residential (2.36), transportation (32.10), and electric power (37.98) sources.

South Carolina established the Governor's Climate, Energy, and Commerce Advisory Committee (CECAC) in February 2007 to research and evaluate, for presentation to the governor, recommended policy options to mitigate the effects of global warming. Appointed by the governor, the CECAC comprises a diverse group of stakeholders who bring broad perspective and expertise to the topic of climate change in South Carolina. Members represent the following sectors: energy, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation, heath care, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and state and local government. The advisory committee has held regular meetings considering options including renewable energy and recycling options.

Over the past three years, the University of South Carolina has purchased 70 flex-fuel vehicles that run on E-85, a mixture that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Much of South Carolina's renewable energy potential comes from biomass—organic matter such as plant fibers and animal waste that can be converted into electricity and fuel.

A number of programs have been undertaken for the conservation and improvement of South Carolina's soils, forests, and wildlife resources. Conservation efforts, including the protection of critical land areas, are carried on by a number of federal and state agencies as well as private organizations.

Watershed management considers economic interests as well as the protection of natural resources. Management plans are used to guide watershed management for water quality, recreation, wildlife management, and agricultural and forestry practices, balanced against community economic development.

The principal soil conservation effort is directed toward covering the badly eroded lands with pasture grasses or trees to prevent further soil removal. Reforestation, supervised cutting and replanting, and fire protection are practiced to provide adequate timber supplies in the present and future.

SEE ALSo: Climate Change, Effects; Floods; Tourism.

BIBLioGRAPHY. Department of Natural Resources, "Watershed Planning,"; Natalie Goldstein, Earth Almanac (Onyx, 2002); National Wildlife Federation, "Global Warming and South Carolina" (May 7, 2007).

LYN MlCHAUD Independent Scholar

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