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7 degrees hotter this March — and that's likely just the start, scientist says

By Lauren Bennett | March 28, 2017

This month’s temperatures have been 7.6 degrees warmer than average — and that’s likely to be just the start of warming to come, a National Weather Service scientist said today at the annual Spring Runoff Conference at Utah State University.

“This is something we’re going to have to deal with,” said Brian McInerney, the senior hydrologist at the service’s forecast office in Salt Lake City.

Anomalous temperatures in February and March indicate that temperatures are rising earlier in the year and by increased margins. The consequence this year has been rapid snow melting — and flooding — in Northern Utah.

The early melting is a direct result of the warming conditions and it has significant impacts on Utah’s economy, as flooding can cost millions of dollars in repair damages, McInerney said.

In a world in which carbon emissions continue at high levels, temperatures could increase by 12 degrees by the year 2100.

A low-emissions scenario projects a 7-degree increase, but that projection is irrelevant, McInerney said, because “we’re not on that road anymore – we’re on the high-emissions scenario.”

“Our children and grandchildren are going to face this reality,” McInerney said, “and it’s going to get worse as time goes on, unfortunately.”

While such research findings are crucial, the USU vice president of research, Mark McLellan, said it’s all useless if it isn’t clearly communicated to the public.

“Science has to engage,” McLellan said. “It is not acceptable to simply be a good scientist. We must learn to communicate good science.” 

McLellan said communication is one of three key attributes, along with leadership and integrity, for scientists.               

“This is an amazingly difficult time to be a scientist,” McLellan said.

To survive, he said, science must be “solid.”