USGCRP's scientific portfolio spans multiple systems and scales, from organisms to ecosystems to the entire planet -- including changes brought about by human behavior as well as by larger natural forces. It incorporates information from nearly all forms of scientific work, including laboratory experiments, field research, computer modeling, scientific assessment, and observations of Earth from land, air, sea, and space. The vast body of work has been carried out by 13 government agencies -- all working together to paint a clearer picture of global change so that citizens and decision makers have the information they need to plan, prepare, and respond.
USGCRP indicates that the benefits of this work extend far beyond pure science into domains that are directly relevant to the day-to-day lives of Americans and others around the world. They support weather forecasting, water and land resource management, agricultural crop production, and many other functions that impact lives, livelihoods, and communities. The report showcases tangible results of work carried out by USGCRP agencies, including, for example, some of the most detailed, data-rich maps of Alaskan permafrost ever generated; the most precise map ever produced of carbon stored in Earth's tropical forests; critical information about the number and magnitude of extreme weather events in the United States; and updated maps that help gardeners and growers plan for harvesting seasons.
For more than two decades USGCRP has continued to fulfill the Congressional mandate to "understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change." Building on 20 years of scientific experience, USGCRP scientists continue to expand the knowledge of Earth's past and present climate, improve projections of future climate change, and achieve a better understanding of the impacts and risks associated with global change -- all with the aim of getting practical information, useful tools, and reliable data into the hands of those who need it.
The report indicates that, "Global change is happening now. Increases in population, industrialization, and human activities have altered the world's climate, oceans, land, ice cover, and ecosystems. In the United States, climate change has already resulted in more frequent heat waves, extreme precipitation, wildfires, and water scarcity. These are serious challenges that directly affect American families, communities, and jobs. The only way to respond effectively is with a sound understanding of the changes underway, the threats and opportunities they present, and how they will change over time. . . "
The report notes that the USGCRP is designed to coordinate the Federal Government's $2.6 billion annual investment in global change research -- the largest such investment in the world. A new Research Plan for 2012-2021 lays out clear goals and objectives to achieve an ambitious new emphasis, including the expansion of stakeholder participation in all stages of the scientific process, and dissemination of results and information to broad audiences, including the public [See WIMS 4/30/12]. Data collected and reported by USGCRP agencies indicate for example:
- In 2011, the United States experienced a record-breaking 14 weather disasters producing insured losses of more than $1B each. The previous record was nine, set in 2008.
- The average temperature for the contiguous United States during July 2012 was the hottest for any month on record (since 1895).
- In the United States, the 12-month period ending July 31, 2012 was the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895
and NOAA announced in December 2012 that 2012 was poised to go down in the record books as the hottest since 1895.
- During July 2012, 2.01 million acres were burned by wildfires in the United States -- the 4th largest extent on record. In the same month, 9,869 fires burned -- the 5th highest number on record for July over the past dozen years.
- 62.9 percent of the contiguous United States experienced moderate to exceptional drought at the end of July 2012. The maximum value of 63.9 percent reached on July 24 set a record for the 13-year history of the United States Drought Monitor
- The National Snow and Ice Data Center -- an interagency center funded jointly by NASA, NOAA, and NSF -- recently reported that Arctic sea ice reached its lowest-ever measured extent in September 2012.