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What Earth's Warming Temperatures Mean For Summit County

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Leslie Thatcher
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Over the last century, temperatures across the planet have risen two degrees Fahrenheit on average. Roughly 70% of that change has happened over the last 40 years. 

 

 

While that might not sound alarming on its own, Robert Davies, a professor of Physics at Utah State University, told KPCW that rising temperatures are important to pay attention to because they can affect ecosystems across the planet. 

"But on an on a fully self contained life support system, think of the planet earth as a giant spaceship," Davies said. "Of course, everything is connected. And so if you change the temperature, you change everything else about the environment. All the frozen bits on the planet, for example, are melting, sea levels are rising, warm water expands. All of the living systems are being impacted."

Looking at a more localized level, some places, like Utah, are warming at faster rates.

 

"And one thing that you find when you look at the data is that the warming across the planet has not been uniform," he said. "Here in Utah, over the last 40 years, we've been warming at twice the global average decade over decade ... for four decades. Some places in southern Utah are between two and a half to three times the global average."

He said averages aren’t the only way to look at how the Earth is warming. 

"If you lived in a house that was 50 degrees all the time, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, you'd have an average temperature of 50 degrees," he said. "On the other hand, if that house was zero degrees, half the time, and 100 degrees, half the time, the average is still 50. But your experience is going to be very, very different. And so it's not just about changing averages, but also changing the whole statistics of the environment."

Speaking during a presentation with the Park City Community Foundation, Davies said Park City’s snow days are being affected by extremes in weather. 

"The number of days below 32 degrees in Park City since 1970 has decreased by about six weeks," he said. "And so of course, we can think of this, I think most of us watching this, we're gonna think of this in terms of how many days can it snow, and we've lost six weeks worth of snowboard days in Park City in the last 50 years or so. And that trend continues."

He said society is very close to crossing thresholds of emissions that will make Earth’s climate unstable. To prevent this, Davies says communities will have to bend the emissions curve. He says areas like Park City would need to cut emission by 15% for the next three years. 

Park City has set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2022 for city operations, and an entirely carbon-free city by 2030. 

KPCW News reports on climate change issues are brought to you by the Park City Climate Fund at the Park City Community Foundation, an initiative that engages Park City in implementing local high impact climate solutions that have potential to be effective in similar communities.