WYOMING IS 97,819 sq. mi. (253,350 sq. km.) with inland water making up 714 sq. mi. (1,849 sq. km.). The Continental Divide (the separation mark of the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds) passes through Wyoming, making Wyoming a source for the MissouriMississippi, the Great Basin, the Columbia, and the Colorado drainage systems.
The climate in Wyoming is relatively cool and depends on the elevation; for example, the summers are moderately warm at lower elevations. Early freezes and a late spring provide long winters and a short growing season (from approximately 80 days in the northwest to 120 days in the plains). Precipitation also varies with elevation. Snow falls from November to May—the yearly snowfall can be as little as 10 in. or less in the basins and 15 to 20 in. in the Plains to over 60 to 70 in. at the higher elevations.
Wyoming has 22 state parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, and national forests set aside for preservation. The largest aquifer in the world, Ogallala Aquifer lies underground beneath eight states including Wyoming. Major industries include agriculture (most of the agricultural land is used for grazing, though dryland wheat and some irrigated crops are grown) and mining for coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Industries that are important to Wyoming's economy include petroleum refining, chemical industries, food processing, industrial machinery, and wood products.
Although climate models vary on the amount of temperature increase possible, potential risks include having decreased water supplies; increased risk for wildfires; changes in food production, with agriculture improving in cooler climates and decreasing in warmer climates; change in rain pattern to downpours, with the potential for flash flooding and health risks of certain infectious diseases from water contamination or disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents, and heat-related illnesses.
Wyoming may benefit from changing climate. Shorter, milder winters could mean longer growing seasons and increasing crop yields, though higher temperatures may mean changing crops produced to those that are better adapted to a warmer climate and that are more drought resistant. The milder cli mate could attract more tourists. Taking advantage of sun and wind to produce electricity could provide economic benefits. The effect of climate change on agriculture will be mixed, and some crops such as potatoes and wine grapes could be negatively affected by rising temperatures, decreasing yields. By comparison, the orchard crops will mature more quickly at height temperatures, with increased quality and market-share value. Some areas may need to change crops for those with higher drought resistance and adaptability to a warmer climate.
Wyoming's glaciers are melting at a rapid pace because of milder temperatures brought on by global warming. Warmer temperatures also mean less snowpack in the mountains and earlier snow-melt, leading to more winter runoff and reduced summer flows in many Wyoming streams. Snow-pack also stores much of Wyoming's clean water supply for drinking, agriculture, and wildlife. Any reduction in snow would increase pressures on this valuable and scarce resource.
On the basis of energy consumption data from Energy Information Administration's State Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, released June 1, 2007, Wyoming's total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion for 2004 was 63.54 million metric tons, made up of contributions from commercial (0.86 million metric tons), industrial (10.12 million metric tons), residential (0.86 million metric tons), transportation (8.07 million metric tons), and electric power (43.62 million metric tons).
Wyoming's current incentive programs and tax breaks targeted at reducing carbon emissions are designed to encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. New laws enacted in 2007 include authorizing a clean-coal task force and providing funding for the clean-coal research, extending a tax benefit for an additional four years (until 2012) for renewable power generation facilities such as wind farms, and improved funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department—the state's agency for managing both game and nongame species of wildlife. In addition, the legislature approved project money drawn on the interest in the Wyoming Wildlife and National Resources Trust Fund, established in 2005, to enhance aspen and sage on the Bates Creek watershed and aspen, sage, bitterbrush, and sumac near Lander, both for wildlife foraging.
SEE ALSO: Climate Models; Greenhouse Gases.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Mark Bowen, Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains (Henry Holt, 2005); Alfred N. Garwood, Weather America Latest Detailed Climatological Data for Over 4,000
Places and Rankings (Toucan Valley Publications, 1996); National Wildlife Federation, "Global Warming and Wyoming" (June 25, 2007); University of Wyoming, "Continued Global Warming Could Destroy Existing Climates and Create New Ones," www.uwyo.edu/news (cited March 26, 2007).
LYN MlCHAUD Independent Scholar
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Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.